Death of a Squire by Maureen Ash
A classic Medieval mystery á-la-In the Name of the Rose and a damned good read!
Publisher’s blurb: After eight years of captivity in the Holy Land, Templar Bascot de Matins escapes with injuries to his body and soul. Now on a sojourn to Lincoln Castle, he is sometimes called upon to uphold the will of God and the laws of man
Late in the Autuman of 1200 AD, the townspeople are preparing to host the first meeting between the King of Scotland and King John. Days before their arrival a squire’s body is found hanging from a tree deep in the forest, and the castellan of Licoln Castle entrusts Bascot with the task of finding the killer.
When outlaws kidnap his trusted servant, Gianni, Bascot is surprised by his own familial feelings for the boy. Despite the unsolved crime and potentially murderous rumors, nothing becomes more important to Bascott than Gianni’s safe return. Could these two misdeeds be linked by chance or by cunning?
About the Author: Maureen Ash (c1939 – ) was born in London and developed a lifelong interest in medieval history. Visits to castle ruins and old churches provided the inspiration for her novels. She now lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada where, she says, she enjoys Celtic music, browsing in bookstores and Belgian chocolate. Bascot’s personal details arose out of her own experiences as a young child in London when she saw soldiers returning from horrific experiences in the Second World War. She is fascinated by the details of medieval life and aims to bring them alive in her stories.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Discovering this work by Maureen Ash, i.e. Death of a Squire [Prime Crime MM, 2007], was a happy conjunction of accidents. As mentioned above the first was not having received my book order from Amazon.ca, and because of this I resorted to browsing a bargain table of paper backs. Death of a Squire is the second of a four-part series (so far) called “Templar Knight.” I must admit that I haven’t read the other three, but I hope to remedy that omission in the near future.
The story takes place in the late autumn of 1200 AD. King John—of Robin Hood fame—is on the throne, and he is about to meet the King of Scotland in Lincoln. Therefore, the townspeople are busy preparing for this momentous occasion when the body of young Hubert de Tournay, an unpopular squire, is found hanging from a limb deep in the forest (adjacent to Sherwood Forest—once again of Robin Hood fame). Lady Nicolaa de la Haye, Castellan of Lincoln Castle, calls upon Templar Bascot de Marins with his young, mute servant Gianni to find the killer—something he has successfully done in Ale House Murders, the first of the series.
Was the squire’s death a vengeance killing by peasants angry at the assault of one of their own? Or was it one of his fellow squires who hated him and might have secrets that Hubert would have been only too pleased to exploit? Or was his end perpetrated by one of the women he coerced by force or blackmail to comply with his advances? Complicating matters is King John who, sensitive to any slight real or imagined, has recently heard innuendos of a covert plan to depose him in favour of his rival Arthur. Therefore, was de Tournay’s murder the result of knowing too much about the wayward ambitions of some highborn nobles?
As de Marins goes about solving the crime we meet a colourful cast of characters, wonderfully developed, and learn more about the history of the time and place. In fact, for me this aspect was one of the real highlights of Ash’s writing; her in-depth knowledge of Medieval life, and the seamless manner in which she wove this into the story. The only quibble I have is that she unfortunately chose the climax of the story to introduce the backgrounds of several characters; i.e. Green Jack and Fulcher, which slowed the pace at an inappropriate stage. Moreover, although the ending is certainly unpredictable, it is perhaps a bit too unpredictable without any prior build-up. Nonetheless, it is a great read for the for the summer and for the whole family. I highly recommend this series by Maureen Ash.
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