Now that he’s been invested Keeper of the King’s Peace, Baldwin Furnshill (The Boy-Bishop’s Glovemaker, 2001, etc.) has still more reason to attack medieval crime in the West Country. This 13th adventure brings the former Knight Templar and his sidekick, Bailiff Simon Puttock, to the town of Tavistock, at the foot of the moors, where deposits of tin have drawn miners to the area. The town has grown around its Abbey, where Abbot Robert is unaware that young acolyte Gerard, pushed by the Abbot’s own steward Augerus, has recently graduated from stealing wine from the Abbey cellars to filching a collection of precious pewter plates. And there’s much more intrigue afoot. A recently arrived miner named Walwynus, found murdered on the moors, is recognized by army recruiter Sir Tristam as a Scottish raider from years back who had caused the terrible scarring of the Abbey’s Brother Peter. Impoverished miner Hamelin, a second murder victim, leaves behind a devastated widow and a dying son. The town’s greedy, dishonorable Receiver, Boce Blakemoor, having reneged on his promise to marry Sara, a local widow, is on a desperate search for the missing pewter that leaves a trail of death and destruction in his wake until he gets his just deserts.
These elements are but a fraction of the scores of characters and rambling incidents presented here, past and present. As Bailiff Simon sums it all up to the Abbot—and whatever hardy non-medievalists may still be listening in—“This is a fine muddle, my Lord.”