King’s Gold

Review by Viviane Crystal

Here is a tale about the costs of remaining loyal when the tides of favor imprison King Edward II, while his queen, Isabella, and her lover Sir Roger Mortimer take over ruling England in the year 1326. Violence swirls in the early days of the king’s imprisonment and the execution of his right-hand man, Sir Hugh le Despenser.

Three brothers who belong to the House of Bardi, a notable banking family centrally located in Italy but with powerful connections now in England as well, are enmeshed in the turmoil. One dies, and another, Matteo, is almost murdered and wonders if it was his own brother or someone else who wished him dead. Certain funds that they send to support the old king become the center of this mystery, a chest of coins that a monk cannot wait to be rid of but which causes the death and suffering of many. At the same time, a plan to free the king from a fortress castle is hastily attempted and thwarted as quickly. It is decided that the old king must be transferred to a more secure castle, and that journey fosters more deaths and a search for justice.

It takes a long time before the actual murder mystery part of the novel appears, but Jecks does a fine job of presenting the tension of mistrust and desire for security and survival in a world where loyalty has gone awry. King’s Gold depicts real 14th-century life in all classes and dimensions.