Sir John de Wolfe uncovers a nest of pirates and smugglers in his 12th medieval adventure (The Noble Outlaw, 2008, etc.).
When the body of a sailor is found buried inland, the king’s coroner must be summoned. So Sir John de Wolfe rides for the port town of Axmouth along with his oafish squire Gwyn and his weakling clerk Thomas. The dead man is a young lad with a mere two voyages to his name and humble hopes of entering the Church. No one seems to have a motive, and the town’s bailiff and portreeve are suspiciously hostile to Crowner John’s inquiries. In the absence of both leads and cooperation, the coroner returns to Exeter and his usual duties, pronouncing on the accidental drowning of a dead miller, disposing of the body of a whale that’s been discovered. Irritated by his wife and beginning to tire of his mistress, Sir John finds increasingly flimsy excuses to visit lovely Hilda of Dawlish, widowed during a previous adventure. However, two more deaths bring him back to Axmouth and draw the attention of the king, who cannot let piracy stand. To advance his career at court and earn the satisfaction of imposing justice, Sir John devises a clever, risky plan to trap the pirates in their own net.
A sometimes pedantic tale complete with maps, glossary and largely unsympathetic characters. The thoroughness of the historical detail, however, will doubtless appeal to fans of medieval intrigue and derring-do.