It’s 1322. Sir Richard Lee has just been appointed circuit judge of the King’s Northern Realm by Edward II. He’s attended by Hubert of Loxley, and he’s making his way to Pontefract Castle and the town of Wakefield in western Yorkshire. Sir Richard is a great believer in the law and its fair administration, and the indications are that the current judge is anything but fair. The current judge is anything but pleased to greet his replacement.
In the nearby forest, Sir Richard and Hubert are confronted by the outlaw Robert Hood and asked for a toll (it’s paid). Arriving in Wakefield, they find a man in the stocks for a minor infraction, and the man is the first to be killed by person or persons unknown – an arrow shot through his eye. A young woman has been raped. A pardoner, who sells indulgences for reducing the penalty of sins, is soon found murdered. Sir Richard becomes the target of a murder attempt. And the king himself and his entourage may be targets. It’s the first in the
The Pardoner’s Crime by British mystery writer Keith Moray is a fine historical brew of murder, mayhem, and revenge. A fun combination of both historical and fictitious characters, the novel is the first of Moray’s Sandal Medieval Thrillers series.
Moray has published six Inspector MacKinnon novels, contemporary police procedurals set in the Orkney Islands. He’s also published three historical crime novels, The Pardoner’s Crime, The Fool’s Folly, and The Curse of the Body Snatchers; non-fiction books (under the pen name Keith Souter); and several westerns as Clay Moore. When he’s not writing, he practices medicine as a part-time doctor and medical journalist (he studied medicine at the University of Dundee). He lives in Yorkshire in England.
In this first story in the series, Robert Hood is something of a peripheral character – considered a traitor because he fought for the wrong (losing) side in the recent civil war. He also gets himself suspected of murder and rape. Sir Richard, with his great faith in the law, refuses to jump to conclusions and closely examines evidence, all the while warding off the attentions of both an apothecary’s wife and a titled lady. The Pardoner’s Crime is a quick-moving, action-packed story.
Top photograph: A recreation of Pontefract Castle, via the Pontefract Museum and Wikipeida.