The Silent Man
1190, Glastonbury. With the discovery of the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, business is booming. Hereward and Gwyneth Mason, children of the innkeeper of The Crown, are run off their feet. One important visitor is Lord Robert Hardwyke, who seeks the monks’ help to cure his ill son, Edmund. Then Lord Robert FitzStephen, supervisor of the abbey’s building programme, arrives with his young daughter, Eleanor. When Eleanor goes missing, suspicion falls on the stonemason Bedwyn, a gentle giant of a man, but mute. Bedwyn narrowly escapes lynching by the mob, and is thrown into prison. Then a ransom note arrives, demanding that Lord Robert fill the abbey fish tank with gold and leave it in a designated place. Who has kidnapped Eleanor? Why the abbey fish tank? Can Hereward and Gwyneth find Eleanor and solve the mystery in time to save Bedwyn from the hangman’s noose?
This is the second in the ‘Abbey Mysteries’ series and the author, sensibly, gives her readers both a brief resume of the back story and a cast list. She is good at the bustle of mediaeval town life: the pilgrims, the market-place, the exotic goods on sale, such as the silks with which Marion le Fevre will embroider the new abbey vestments, and so on. There is certainly enough action to keep the reader interested and involved. She is less convincing with regard to class. Rank was extremely important to the mediaeval mind; it is inconceivable that the children of an innkeeper would claim friendship with the son of a nobleman, as Gwyneth and Hereward do. Nor would the townsfolk refer to ‘Eleanor’ when she goes missing. It would be ‘Lady Eleanor’, surely? It is a pity that Cherith Baldry spoils a lively tale by such social inaccuracies. For 9 plus.
The Silent Man has a very good and original plot. It is action packed, and, very cleverly, a different story line appears which holds the whole plot together, but you only find out about it at the very end. I learned that life around 1190 was very simple. People thought King Arthur would come back and rise again, that he was only sleeping. There were a lot of monks and people believed lots of myths and legends. I think it is aimed at 9 to 11 year olds, both boys and girls, and is a really good book.
Early Medieval (to 1337)