The Last Templar - Michael Jecks

The Last Templar was first published in 1995, but I only came across this series recently. I have always been interested in medieval mysteries (a la Cadfael) and in Templars in particular, so this immediately struck my attention. I have no doubt that this series was restocked on bookshelves due to the Da Vinci Code book / movie and subsequent interest in this topic.

This is clearly a "setting up" book - i.e. you're introduced to the main characters, their relationships are established, their world is established. I was willing to cut the book some slack therefore, in the sometimes tedious descriptions and motive-explaining. Like with any series, you have to learn who the people are in the beginning, so that their actions and reasons in subsequent books make sense to you.

You have a Templar who has hidden out after the infamous Friday the 13th mass destruction of his order. He's returned to his family holding in England to retire there in anonymity. You also have a 30-something local authority person who is married with a young daughter, who handles all law issues in the land. Just like in Cadfael and other mystery series, the two team up to figure out "who done it". The Templar - Baldwin - is world wise and very intelligent. The local - Simon - is a bit dense but has a good enough heart and wants to plow through to bring justice.

I love the medieval era so I did have several issues with historical accuracy here. I like to be immersed in the "time culture" when I read about olden times - but it's often more like modern people had time-travelled to the past and were living there. The wife harasses the husband for doing his job - tracking down a murderer, remember - rather than playing with the daughter. People always seem to know exactly what time it is, when many people didn't have access to a town clock, never mind personal timepieces. There are many other issues like this. It's not that they were huge, gaping holes - but it was more like water torture where each little thing struck you to build up.

I did notice the typos and such, but I don't mind those. It did seem to indicate that a better editor was needed for the series.

In general my big issue is how characters quickly dismiss important clues, or completely give up on certain issues, when we're talking about murders which are very rare (according to the characters). Surely they should care about each clue! Also, the Abbott's murder seemed rather extreme in the context of this situation. The long winded explanation for it was also a bit much. I agree that the Abbott needed to be punished, but I can imagine many scenarios where his punishment was done in a way that was proper for the story setting, instead of coming across as a raving lunatic attack.

In any case, I do like the setting and always have hope for an author to learn as he goes, so I will plow ahead with the series!

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