The Templar, the Queen and her Lover by Michael Jecks. Jecks may or may not know anything about submarines, but his medieval mysteries share many of the same characteristics as the best Tom Clancy thrillers. Both tend to be long, but quick reads as the pages fly by. There is usually a considerable amount of build up at the beginning as multiple characters and plot lines are introduced. As the story continues, the history of each character is described, giving more definition and contour to their personalities. The hero typically has a strong moral center with the physical and mental skills to act and think quickly and decisively. Finally, the pace of each book increases as the multiple plotlines eventually converge.
Jecks’ latest offering contains an incredibly complex spider web with four focal points: the English King Edward II, his lover Sir Hugh le Despenser, Edward’s estranged wife, Queen Isabella, and her brother, the French King Charles IV. Every other character in the book has a connection to at least one of these four and usually to more than one: either as an ally, as a servant, or as an enemy or threat. Isabella travels to Paris in 1325 to negotiate a treaty with her brother on behalf of her husband and our hero, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, is assigned as part of her personal bodyguard. Also caught up in the court intrigues is a band of musicians, blackmailed into spying on the Queen. Intersecting these groups from a different direction are the survivors of a massacre at the Chateau Gaillard, the former prison of Charles IV’s first wife. As the entourage makes its way to Paris and the negotiations drag on, additional murders take place until Sir Baldwin, assisted as always by bailiff Simon Puttock, can make a clear picture of the mosaic of clues.
In this chapter of the series, Jecks shows his ability to develop a full range of characters, from the highest in the land to the lowliest prison guard. The sub-plot involving the musicians stumbles at times, but the story of the Chateau is quite interesting. The convoluted and ever-shifting allegiances at court will keep readers guessing.