Tuesday, 3 August 1999

Michael Jecks: The Last Templar (1995)

Edition: Headline, 1995
Review number: 303

After reading the three immediate sequels, it is nice to be able to get my hands on The Last Templar. Like many medieval historical novels, and other novels with an interest in the esoteric, The Last Templar deals with the suppression of the Templar order by Philip IV of France and Pope Clement. The motive of greed was hidden by sensational accusations of heresy and witchcraft against the order. (See the review of P.C. Doherty's Ghostly Murders for more about these events and their fascination for writers and readers.)

As introduction to the book, Jecks describes the dramatic scene at Notre Dame, when leading Templars are led out from torture to publicly confess to the awful crimes of which they have been accused. But they all denounced their accusers, claiming to be true sons of the church, until hurriedly returned to prison.

Then we move forward twenty years, to Simon Puttock's appointment as bailiff in the Dartmoor area. Almost immediately he is called to investigate a death in a tiny village on the edge of the moor. Although Puttock is inclined to dismiss it as an accident, the owner of the village, who is recently returned from living abroad, insists that it must have been murder. This man is Sir Baldwin Furshill, quickly befriended by Puttock. Other deaths follow, but Puttock cannot let himself be convinced that they are all connected, even after a group of the vicious outlaws known as trail bastons move into the area, beginning a reign of terror.

The Last Templar has the same virtues as the remainder of the series, having a meticulously researched and atmospherically presented background of medieval Devon. Since this is the first in the series, and thus the series characters need to be properly established, the characterisation is less perfunctory than in some of the later novels.

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