Amidst the myth and folklore of Tavistock in 1322, one tale above all others strikes fear into the hearts of the town's inhabitants - that of the murders on the Abbot's Way.
One cold winter, many years ago, a young acolyte eager for distraction led a group of fellow novices in the theft of their abbot's wine store. Later, crippled with guilt and fear of discovery, Milbrosa was driven to commit still more crimes in an effort to disguise his sins. But his soul had been destroyed with his first sip of illicit wine, and, as legend has it, the devil himself appeared to mete out his punishment, leading the unwitting Milbrosa and his cohorts to their deaths on the treacherous Devon moors.
Now, in the autumn of 1322, it looks as though history may be repeating itself. Abbot Robert has found his wine barrel empty, and a body has been discovered on the moors. Bailiff Simon Puttock, in Tavistock for the coining, is called upon to investigate, but the case seems only to get more complicated with time. It soon becomes apparent that it's not just wine that's gone missing from the abbey, and the body on the moor isn't the last. With the arrival of Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, the townspeople hope the mystery will finally be solved - but do the terrors of the past provide the key to their present turmoil?
It is 1321 and the King's favourite, Hugh Despenser, is corruptly using his position to steal lands and wealth from other lords. His rapacity has divided the nation and civil war looms.
In Tiverton rape and murder have unsettled the folk preparing for St Giles' feast. Philip Dyne has confessed and claimed sanctuary in St Peter's church, but he must leave the country. If he doesn't, he'll be declared an outlaw, his life forfeit.
Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and his friend, Bailiff Simon Puttock, arrive at Lord Hugh de Courtenay's castle at Tiverton for the feast. When a messenger arrives calling for the Coroner, Baldwin and Simon accompany him to view the body of Sir Gilbert of Carlisle, Despenser's ambassador to Lord Hugh. Not far off lies a second corpse: the decapitated figure of Dyne. The Coroner is satisfied that Dyne killed the knight and was then murdered: Dyne was an outlaw, so he doesn't merit the law's attention, but Sir Baldwin feels too many questions are left unanswered. How could a weak, unarmed peasant kill a trained warrior? And if he did, what happened to Sir Gilbert's horse – and his money?
When Baldwin and Simon are themselves viciously attacked, they know that there must be another explanation. A more sinister enemy is at large, someone with a powerful motive to kill. But there are so many suspects…
It’s late spring in 1321 and as Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King’s Peace, prepares for his wedding, he receives the news that one of his guests, Roger, Squire of Throwleigh, has just died.
Roger’s death is sad, though not entirely unexpected for a man of his age, and Sir Baldwin – together with his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock – travels to the funeral. The new master of Throwleigh is little Herbert: five years old, and isolated in his grief, for his distraught mother Katharine unfairly blames him for her husband’s death. At Lady Katharine’s visible rejection of her son, Baldwin feels deeply disturbed about the new heir’s apparent lack of protection. For having inherited a large estate and much wealth, the boy will undoubtedly have made dangerous enemies…
When Herbert is reported dead only a few days later, however, the evidence seems to show that the boy was accidentally run over by a horse and cart. But Baldwin nevertheless suspects foul play. And as he and Simon begin to investigate the facts, they are increasingly convinced that Herbert was murdered.
There is no doubt that there are many in Throwleigh who would have liked to see Herbert dead, but little do Baldwin and Simon realise that their investigation will lead them to the most sinister and shocking murderer they have yet encountered.
As the summer of 1322 brings sun to the Devonshire countryside, it seems that the small village of Sticklepath is destined to remain in darkness. An afternoon of innocent adventure becomes one of gruesome terror when two playmates uncover the body of a young girl up on the moors. As the news spreads through the village, one name is on everyone's lips. The body must be that of Aline, the ten-year-old daughter of Swetricus, who went missing six years ago.
Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock are summoned to the scene to investigate, but find their progress blocked at every turn. There seems to be an unspoken agreement amongst the villagers to ensure that the truth behind Aline's death is never discovered. But what reason could they possibly have for shielding a murderer?
As the King's men slowly break down the wall of silence they discover that the village has plenty to hide. Aline is not the only young girl to have been found dead in recent years, and it seems that the villagers have been concealing not only a serial killer, but, judging by the state of the girls' bodies, a possible case of cannibalism. Or, if the rumours are to be believed, a vampire! That would certainly explain the haunted looks in the eyes of so many villagers, and the strange voices heard late at night from the Sticklepath cemetery…
For Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and his friend, Bailiff Simon Puttock, the Christmas of 1321 looks set to be one of great festivity. As a reward for their services in a previous investigation, they've been summoned to Exeter to receive the prestigious gloves of honour in a ceremony led by the specially elected Boy-Bishop. But the dead man swinging on the gallows as they arrive is a portentous greeting.
Within hours they learn that Ralph – the cathedral's glovemaker and the city's beloved philanthropist – has been robbed and stabbed to death. His apprentice is the obvious suspect but there's no trace of the missing jewels and money. When Peter, a Secondary at the cathedral, collapses from poisoning in the middle of Mass, the finger of suspicion turns to him. Yet if he was Ralph's attacker, where is the money now? And could Peter have committed suicide – or was he murdered, too?
When the Dean and city Coroner ask Simon and Baldwin to solve the riddles surrounding the deaths, they are initially reluctant, believing them to be unconnected. But as they dig for the truth they find that many of Exeter's leading citizens are not what – or who – they first seem to be, and that the city's Christmas bustle is concealing a ruthless murderer who is about to strike again…
Moll, a young nun, lies in the infirmary of St Mary’s Priory, Belstone, having been bled to cure a migraine. Left to rest, she is just falling into a doze, smiling as she dreams of her beloved Virgin Mary, when she suddenly awakes, realising in terror that she can’t breathe. But she is too weak to fight for her life…
It’s 1321 and Lady Elizabeth of Topsham, prioress of St Mary’s, is struggling to retain her position in the face of devastating opposition. Not only is St Mary’s in the worst possible state of disrepair due to lack of funds, but Sister Margherita, her treasurer, has accused her of lascivious disregard, claiming that, instead of paying for a new roof, Elizabeth has given money to the new vicar, a man she often sees alone – at night. Many of the nuns are convinced that Margherita would make a better prioress – especially now it has been confirmed that Moll was murdered on her sickbed.
Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King’s Peace, together with his old friend Bailiff Simon Puttock, are summoned immediately by the Bishop of Exeter’s representative to investigate. There is no doubt that the threefold vows of obedience, chastity and poverty are being broken with alarming frequency. When a second nun is murdered, they face their most difficult case yet. The path to the truth twists and turns with the sinister forces of primitive passions and secret ambitions, finally leading them to a dangerous wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The fifteenth Knights Templar Mystery
It is , and Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Bailiff Simon Puttock have been granted leave to go on pilgrimage. Together they travel across Europe to Santiago de Compostela. But danger is never far away, and when a beautiful girl is found murdered on a hillside, the friends are among the first on the scene.
Baldwin and Simon lend their investigative skills to the enquiry, headed by the local pesquisidore. But the unexpected appearance of a face from Baldwin’s past could threaten the investigation, as well as the future of Baldwin himself. . .
The Fourteenth Knights Templar Mystery
As descends upon a windswept chapel on the edge of Dartmoor, who could blame young priest, Father Mark, for seeking affection from the local miller’s daughter, Mary? But when Mary’s body, and the unborn child she was carrying, is found dead, Mark is the obvious suspect.
Called to investigate, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock soon begin to have their doubts. Could one of Mary’s many admirers have murdered her in a fit of jealousy? Or might it be someone even closer to home? By the time their search is over, life for Baldwin and Simon, and their families, will never be quiet the same again.
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