Read The Sticklepath Strangler (2001) Online

Authors: Michael Jecks

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The Sticklepath Strangler (2001)

BOOK: The Sticklepath Strangler (2001)
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The Sticklepath Strangler (2001)
Medieval West Country Mystery [12]
Jecks, Michael

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. The body is that of ten-year-old Aline, who had gone missing six years earlier. When Sir Baldwin Furnshill and his friend Simon Puttock are called to the scene to investigate, they soon discover that Aline is not the only young girl to have been found dead in recent years. It seems that the villagers have been concealing not only a serial killer, but a possible case of cannibalism. Or, if the rumors are to be believed, a vampire.

From Publishers Weekly

In this richly detailed tale of serial killing in the Middle Ages the 12th in the medieval West Country mystery series British author Jecks convincingly re-creates the atmosphere of Dartmoor, Devonshire, in the summer of 1322. When the body of a young girl is discovered six years after her disappearance, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and his long-term friend, Bailiff Simon Puttock, investigate. They soon learn that other, slightly older girls have been found dead in the recent past, and that the much despised Purveyor to the King went missing during the great famine a few years earlier. A murder and a suspicious death occur in the midst of their inquiry, and the plot proverbially thickens. Most of the locals including a priest who's usually drunk, a miller who abuses his wife and daughter, a cautious reeve and a treacherous manciple are unsavory, superstitious and frequently hostile to Sir Baldwin, Simon and Sir Roger de Gidleigh, a Devonshire coroner. There are reports of cannibalism and even fears of a vampire. An introductory list of more than two dozen characters will help readers who find themselves momentarily lost amid the elaborate intrigues and concealments in a world where "superstition is a useful precaution." Jecks's fans will be amply rewarded.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In their 12th adventure (after The Leper of St. Giles), Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and Simon Puttock, bailiff, friend, and cosleuth, arrive at the village of Sticklepath, where residents have discovered a girl's skeleton. Sir Baldwin and Simon meet with resistance to their inquiries at every turn: not only have other girls gone missing but the villagers have killed one of their own for alleged cannibalism. In addition to ignorance and superstition, the pair encounters a drunken cleric, a wife abuser, and more. Great characterization, a detailed sense of place, and a finely honed plot make this a superb medieval historical.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.




Also by Michael Jecks

The Last Templar

The Merchant’s Partner

A Moorland Hanging

The Crediton Killing

The Abbott’s Gibbet

The Leper’s Return

Squire Throwleigh’s Heir

Belladonna at Belstone

The Traitor of St. Giles

The Boy Bishop’s Glovemaker

The Tournament of Blood

The Devil’s Acolyte

The Oath

King’s Gold

Templar’s Acre

City of Fiends


First published in 2001 by Headline Books Publishing

This edition published in Great Britain in 2013 by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

Copyright © 2012 by Michael Jecks
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.

The right of Michael Jecks to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents
Act, 1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
222 Gray’s Inn Road

Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney

Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

A CIP catalogue copy for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN: 978-1-47112-625-3
eBook ISBN: 978-1-47112-626-0

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.


This book is for
Shirley and Dartmoor Dave Denford,
the blacksmith who ‘don’t do ’orses’.


Cast of Characters

Author’s Note


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Cast of Characters


Sir Baldwin de Furnshill

The Keeper of the King’s Peace in Crediton, Baldwin has been marked by the injustice of the destruction of the Knights Templar. As a result
he seeks justice for common folk.

Lady Jeanne

Baldwin’s wife, who was once widowed and now fears losing her second husband.


Baldwin saved Edgar’s life in Acre, and since then Edgar swore loyalty to him for life. He is Baldwin’s most trusted servant.

Simon Puttock

Long a friend of Baldwin’s, and an official of the Stannaries, the tin miners of Dartmoor. Simon and Baldwin have often worked together on

Roger de Gidleigh

Coroner Roger is one of only two Coroners who must investigate all sudden deaths and wrecks in Devonshire.

Nicole Garde

The French wife of Thomas Garde; mother of Joan.

Thomas Garde

Thomas is a freeman, who works his own little plots, but he is an incomer to the vill of Sticklepath and has never been fully accepted.


Daughter of Nicole and Thomas, Joan has found a corpse.

Ivo Bel

Brother of Thomas, and Manciple to the nuns of Canonsleigh. He lusts after Nicole, his sister-in-law.

Serlo Warrener

A gruff, hardy man, crippled years ago, who tends to the warren up on the moor.


Athelhard was killed by the vill when they thought him guilty of murder.

‘Mad’ Meg

Sister to Athelhard, and simple from birth, Meg avoids the vill since the death of her brother.

Ansel de Hocsenham

A Purveyor to the King, Ansel last visited the vill during the 1315–16 famine.


Close friend of Joan who found the corpse with her.


A peasant of Sticklepath who lost Aline, his daughter, several years ago. Three daughters survive.

Samson atte Mill

The miller, known for brawling and drunkenness.


Samson’s wife, a downtrodden woman.


Samson and Gunilda’s daughter.

Alexander de Belston

The cautious Reeve of Sticklepath who is determined to preserve the reputation of the vill and its people.

William Taverner

William is the master of the only inn.


Taverner’s son, who was killed in the recent floods.


Daughter to Taverner, who often serves visitors to the inn.

Gervase Colbrook

Parson to the little chantry chapel of Sticklepath.

Drogo le Criur

Leader of the Foresters, charged with the duty of guarding the Forest of Dartmoor and travellers over it.

Peter atte Moor

A Forester under Drogo, Peter lost his daughter Denise to the murderer some years ago.

Adam Thorne

Also a Forester, Adam has a bad limp, but is known for his strength and integrity.

Vincent Yunghe

The youngest of the Foresters, Vin is still learning his duties.

Miles Houndestail

A traveller who was first to see the corpse with the two girls.

Author’s Note

There is a natural series of stages in the creation of a new book. For me, a central scene comes first, something which drives the whole of the rest of the story. In
Leper’s Return
, for instance, I wanted to look at leprosy in the Middle Ages, while in
The Crediton Killings
, I examined the role of mercenaries. Often, though, I find myself
chewing over a curious beginning and wondering how I could develop it into a story.
The Sticklepath Strangler
belongs to this category, and I have to thank Deryn Lake, author of the
excellent John Rawlings stories, for the initial idea.

It was while we were walking over Dartmoor – not, I have to add, the sort of thing that Deryn’s friends would expect of her – some few years ago that she and I swapped ideas
for new novels.

My idea for her was for a deserted ship suddenly arriving at a Devon port, a concept she used in her novel
Death in the Port of Exeter
, while hers gave me the initial scene of this
book, with Joan and Emma’s hideous discovery. I must add that her suggestion that I should write about a skull falling from a wall came only from an appreciation of a two-thousand-year-old
wall – not from any wishful thinking about what she would like to do with the struggling author who had promised to show her an attractive walk to a not-too-far distant pub.

And if Michael, who later gave us a lift back from the Northmore Arms in his Audi, should ever read this, I would like to thank him too.

Sticklepath is a fairly typical and relatively unspoilt village, but it has had a confusing past.

Take the Church: Sticklepath has been split among the parishes of Sampford Courtenay, South Tawton and Belstone. Then again the roads have all changed their routes; the main road used to suffer
gridlock for the whole of the summer until the dual carriageway was built, which avoids Whiddon Down, South Zeal, Sticklepath, and Okehampton itself, so that now, instead of stationary vehicles
belching fumes on the old A30, locals have no passing traffic whatever. Good for the children walking to and from school, but less so for the many pubs and cafes which were built on the old road.
Most have been forced to close.

BOOK: The Sticklepath Strangler (2001)
4.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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