It’s 1325. Medieval detective Sir Baldwin de Furnshill embarks with his friends Simon Puttock and Sir Richard de Welles on a perilous trip to France.
King Edward II is hated in his country because he’s under the thumb of his adviser, friend and possible lover Sir Hugh le Dispenser, a man of towering greed and viciousness. The King must go to France and pay homage if he wants to keep his lands there. Fearing for his life, however, he sends instead his son Edward, recently created Earl of Chester. Edward’s mother Isabella, sister to Charles IV of France, is already waiting at his destination. Bishop Walter II, who accompanies the delegation, has agreed to cover Isabella’s expenses, but only if she returns to England. Upon arrival the three find themselves investigating several murders for which Bishop Walter may be blamed. The three comrades are forced to use their finely honed detective skills as they tangle with a wily Cardinal, Paris’s King of Thieves, his deadly executioner, a beautiful and evil prostitute, and members of the King’s court. Although all three despise Despenser, they must remain loyal to their King even when Isabella, who has been cruelly treated, is determined to remain in France with her son until England is rid of Despenser. Not only do they solve the brutal murders, they avoid getting fatally entangled in the even more dangerous affairs of monarchs.
Jecks’s painstakingly researched medieval whodunit (The Templar, the Queen and her Lover, 2008, etc.) is neatly enfolded in the continuing saga of Edward’s tumultuous reign.