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by Michael Jecks
Avon, January 2006
400 pages
ISBN: 0060846542

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The small town of Crediton lies not far from Exeter. Life is good among the townspeople and a new church is being erected. There is excitement over the pending visit of the Bishop of Exeter. Suddenly a shadow falls across the town when a band of mercenary soldiers, lead by the fierce Sir Hector, arrives and takes over the inn.

The soldiers have been to Crediton many years before and there is a mystery as to why they have returned. Following the murders of several local women and a possible mutiny among the soldiers, the Kings Keeper of the Peace and his bailiff must seek the truth from among a generous number of suspects.

I looked forward to reading this novel because I enjoy stories set in medieval times and always like to learn something new. I have to say that I was disappointed. The basic plot was good. It is unfortunate that the author seems lazy in his use of adverbial attributions. This made reading the book a trial as opposed to a pleasure. On almost every page rather than showing a character's expression or attitude, he reached for an adverb. Such shorthand writing cheats the reader though it probably helps the author to get a book out fast. There are far too many instances to cite them all, so I will give only a few:

Said genially (several times), said thinly, smiled thinly, rode stiffly, shook off irritably, thought contemptuously, gazed imperturbably, nodded helpfully, moving urgently, said lugubriously, saw moodily, stood glumly, staring pensively, stared truculently, asked superciliously, said speculatively (several times), stared fixedly, walked furtively, and many more.

There are other problems with the writing:

Following the finger, Baldwin saw the mercenary leader. (Don't think he meant it the way it sounds.)

I find that hard to swallow. (The closest I could find the word swallow used even vaguely this way was in 1690 according to the OED)

The bailiff subsided, looking at Baldwin. (I find it hard to envision a subsiding bailiff.)

It was in vain for Sir Hector, increasingly desperately, to argue that the French had (Increasingly desperate would have been better.)

Their leader was grown insipid; he no longer had the edge he once showed. (Was grown insipid sounds awkward.)

An electric blue light outlined the window. (The light was lightning, but electric sounds too modern for a medieval story. The word electric first appears in 1600 accordingly to the OED)

Simon, don't try to be their apologist. (Again, too modern. The story takes place ca. 1300, but the OED has apologist first used in 1640.)

I'm not a cretin. (Again, the OED shows that the word cretin is first used in 1754.)

In the edition I read, the publisher also included excerpts of the first three novels in the series. I was curious to see if the writer simply got tired by the time he wrote THE CREDITON KILLINGS. Unfortunately the first three, if the excerpts are representative of the whole, are equally full of this type of writing. For myself, I won't read any more books by this writer, but will save my time for authors who show more concern for good writing.

As for the medieval period covered in the series, this too seemed superficial. I failed to see much expertise in this area, since the details given were no more than I would have expected from a writer making just a cursory effort to place a story in the medieval period. Perhaps I'm too harsh. I'm sure there are other readers who will be willing to ignore the writing style and enjoy the story. But the writing distracted me and ruined the story in my eyes.

Reviewed by Ginger K. W. Stratton, March 2006

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