The Mad Monk of Gidleigh

Review by Nicole Leclerc

Devon, England, 1323. A pregnant girl is found murdered. Her lover, a monk, flees. Is he the killer, or did fear make him run away? This is what Baldwin, Keeper of the King’s Peace and Puttock, Bailiff of the Stannaries, have to determine. The story is difficult to get into because the timelines are out of order and there are multiple points of view, but once the two investigators arrive, it becomes more linear and captivating. Apart from the lawmen, the characters are similar, all motivated by sex, greed and violence. The men are prey, the women victims. This is a very bleak and humourless book: “The people here had no sense of humour, their existence was harsh, unleavened with laughter and pleasure.” Jecks really captures that dark reality and the social structure. Although it reads like an instalment of a medieval soap opera, the plot is complex and full of unexpected developments. This is a long book that could have benefited with less repetition. If you enjoy rosy cosies, this is not for you; the body count is high and the mood is dark. However, if you care for a well-researched visit to medieval England, don’t pass this series.