Title: The Tournament of Blood (Knights Templar #8)
Author: Michael Jecks
Setting: England 1322
If you’ve ever seen a movie with two knights jousting in single combat, you might think you know all about medieval tournaments. You’d be wrong. That was just one event of the whole contest, and the contest itself was only a part of a huge series of events that took place. This book, which cites references for the curious, describes in detail everything that went into the pageantry of a real tournament. Our main character, Sir Baldwin, is a former Knight Templar. By this time in history, though, that order has been declared outlaw and excommunicate, which means that Sir Baldwin is living incognito in rural England, serving as a Keeper of the Peace. (Which is apparently like a sheriff, but not quite.)
Sir Baldwin and his wife are awaiting the birth of their first child, so talk of a tournament doesn’t really interest them. Once the baby girl safely arrives, Baldwin is happy to escape for a few days and join friends. But almost as soon as he gets there, his friend the bailiff Simon Puttock gets into a quarrel with a builder about the stands for the event. Then the builder is found dead. And that’s just the beginning.
Other bodies follow – the builder’s partner, a squire or two. The event was supposed to be a chance for knights to improves their combat skills, for squires to impress and maybe earn a knighthood of their own, for merchants to make some money and for the common people to have a little hard-earned fun. Instead, it’s turning into chaos.
I really enjoy this series. It’s really long and very popular among historical mysteries. This one was bloodier than usual. By the end of the book (slight spoiler) I was surprised by the way justice was administered. It’s a little different from the previous books I’ve read.
If you’re interested in this author, I would recommend starting with the first one, The Last Templar. Some fascinating stuff about the religious order, about the whole issue of holy wars and politics. There’s a lot of religion and politics in these books, so if you like your mysteries to have plenty of meaty historical details, you’d eat these up. I’d give this one 3.9 stars.