Cover Image: The Moorland Murderers

The Moorland Murderers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Michael Jecks involves his assassin from Queen Mary's reign in Moorland Murders.  He wins the money from a man who is found murdered and becomes a suspect. The case revolves the relationships of community from the moor and the town.  After much back and forth he gets to leave and the real murderer is caught.
Was this review helpful?
Jack Blackjack is running from the queen's men.  He thinks he's far enough ahead  of them to stop for a beer.  There he meets a man that wants to gamble with dice.  He asks the bar owner for dice, he's not going to use the ones the gambler had.  They play until he's taken all the gambler's money and his horse.
Canongate and Net Galley let me read this book for review (thank you).  It has been published and you can get a copy now.

As he goes outside to relieve himself, he notices someone in front of him.  While he looks at that, someone hits him with a blow on his head.  When he wakes up, his money is gone and the man he was watching is dead.  Unfortunately, he's from out of town and he gets accused of the murder.

He's subjected to different groups of people but they all intend to hang him.  How can he prove he didn't do it?

As time goes on, he asks questions but it isn't getting clearer.  Will he find the answers soon enough or is he going to hang?
Was this review helpful?
My thanks to Canongate Books Severn House for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Moorland Murderers’ by Michael Jecks in exchange for an honest review.

This is Book 6 in Jecks’ Bloody Mary Mystery series featuring his roguish anti-hero, Jack Blackjack. I have read a few of the books in this series and enjoyed them all. As Jack Blackjack narrates the story, it has elements of romp even when he is in mortal danger. 

July, 1556 and Jack Blackjack has left London following a spot of bother with Queen Mary’s men. He has determined it best for his continued health to relocate to France. He decides to spend the night at a Devon tavern on the edge of Dartmoor and finds himself a stranger in a strange land without ever leaving England’s shores.

When Jack agrees to a game of dice he sets off a series of events that sees him accused of murder. Making matters worse the dead man turns out to have been the leader of the all-powerful miners who rule the surrounding moors. They want justice and are not content to wait for the official court verdict to determine Jack’s guilt. 

‘The Moorland Murders’ is a fast paced mystery with many twists. I had been a little wary of Jack when I first encountered him yet have grown to appreciate his particular style of knavery and desire for self preservation. 

In his Author’s Note, Jecks advises that Lydford Law and other local practices detailed in the novel were not the product of his imagination but traditions that were part of Devon society for centuries. 

Despite the constant perils faced by Jack, he retains his wit and the ability to find safe passage through myriad challenges. The novel also provides cheeky new euphemisms such as  ‘a mattress-walloping’. 

I feel that Michael Jecks is among the best writers of historical mysteries. He effortlessly evokes the Tudor period as well as provides an entertaining and engaging mystery. 

4.5 stars rounded up to 5.
Was this review helpful?
Jack skirts close to the edge!

Once again pseudo assassin, card sharp and self proclaimed ladies man, Jack Blackjack finds himself caught in a mire of chance and design. It’s 1556 and the word’s abroad that Lady Elizabeth Tudor’s comptroller Sir Thomas Parry has been taken to the Tower under orders from Queen Mary. Jack’s worried that he might be caught up in the purge as his master and employer John Blount works for Parry.
Jack’s survival, being always front and center of his concerns, has him fleeing to France via a circuitous route. He takes to the road ahead of rumour about his imminent capture by the Queen’s Officers, and we catch up with him at the Green Cock Inn at Okehamptom, Devonshire on the edge of Dartmoor. Of course, things go haywire. (When do they ever not?) Jack ends up being accused of murdering a miner. Not just any miner but Daniell Vowell, leader of a powerful miner’s group. Jack escapes into the wilds of the moors where he comes into contact with the tin miners and an outlaw group, the Gubbingses. Up on the high moor justice comes by way of the Lydford Law. Rough justice metered out by the miners. Jack’s surely first in line!
As always I’m open mouthed at Jack’s belief in his abilities, his self assurance about his good looks, his surety about his worldliness and of course his superiority. He’s a preening cockerel who falls from one dastardly situation into another, and yet always lands on his feet. An on the edge of feral, puss-in-boots character, who’s self importance and vanity just keeps tripping him up. His confirmed assurance that all women see him as desirable not only demonstrates his almost psychotic belief in his own charm and appeal but invariably leads him into trouble.
Despite his horrendous ego, I am exceedingly fond of this reprobate idiot, even if it’s just watching him falling into abysmal situations by his own lack of foresight and flail around in the swampy mess of circumstances. He’s the supreme survivalist. Honestly I’d back him in as the winner in any episode of Survivor. His self interest and survival instincts coupled with pure luck and chance are unparalleled. There’s always some sort of redemptive factor that keeps Jack from death, but the leeway is exceedingly narrow. Maybe I’m addicted to finding out how he’s going to come around—once again! Medieval noir or rapscallion extraordinaire? Whichever, it’s all accidental. Jack is only a hero in his own mind. Although something about him charms enough people that he inevitably comes through tight situations and then proceeds on his merry, unmindful way.
I found Jecks’ informative postscript about the power the miners’ groups had in these times, in particular due to the monies their work brought to the royal purse, fascinating and of course a telling point about the self interest of the monarchy.

A Canongate Severn House ARC via NetGalley 
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)
Was this review helpful?
I had a lot of fun in reading this gripping, twisty novel. A good historical mystery full of humour and action.
It's fast paced, well written and I like Jack and found the characters fleshed out.
The mystery is solid, the historical background vivid.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?
Jack Blackjack must be one of the most unluckiest people in Tudor England. Trying to escape from Queen Mary’s men he finds himself on the receiving end of Lydford’s Law where local miners and outlaws take the law into their own hands. He rolls from one escape from a murder charge to another. Many a local wants him dead. He will need all his wits to solve the many mysteries around him. A fast paced story you can hardly catch your breath before Jack needs help again. A collection of bloodthirsty unlikeable characters make it difficult to care on the outcome.
I was given an arc of this book by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Once again (and with lots of pleasure) we are on the road following the very hilarious adventures and misadventures of Jack Blackjack, roguish misfit, pretentious Londoner, very  unreliable assassin (rest assured he never killed anyone) & eternal gambler as he precipitously flees the capital city in order to avoid the fiery clutches of Bloody Mary. It's 1556 and it can be a bit too difficult and dangerous for anyone  to anger the unhinged monarch and her Catholic clique... 
So our winsome antihero decides to make himself scarce and to go into hiding across the Channel. Unfortunately for him (but not surprising here if you know him) he can't avoid a game of dice on the road while crossing Devonshire and he ends up getting enmeshed right in the middle of some very fierce  & truculent feuds between some unsavory miners and bloodthirsty outlaws. Robbed, beaten senseless and accused of murdering several people, Jack will have to go through some very tough times in order to save his cosmopolitan neck...

A hilarious romp through the cold bleakness and roughness of the deserted Moorland, fiendishly plotted and blessed with a cast of very colorful and unforgettable characters. I just loved this novel, a historical muder mystery that kept me in stiches for a few hours! Bravo😂👏

Highly recommended and to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever👍

Many thanks to Netgalley and Canongate/Severn for this terrific ARC.
Was this review helpful?
In general, I love Cannongate and Severn House titles, but not this one. I lost patience with novels featuring men who look at every woman as a potential roll in the hay and themselves as irresistible (trust me, they can be resisted) about twenty years ago—maybe thirty. I'm still going to get excited when you post new titles, but this one wasn't for me.
Was this review helpful?
Jack Blackjack, master assassin (despite never having actually killed anyone) was concerned about Queen Mary’s latest persecutions in London, so he did what he did best – namely run away. France seems to be his best bet, but he decides that his best bet it to go via Devon. After all, the danger is in London and the south east of England, so Devon must be a safe bet…

Stopping the night in a tavern, Jack manages to upset the leader of the local miners by taking all his money (and his horse) over a game of dice. The next morning, the man is dead, and the local populace have a very convenient suspect at hand. Jack’s usual plan kicks in – running – but the area consists of factions – villagers, outlaws and miners – each with their own brand of justice, some of which don’t need the slightest bit of evidence to enact…

This is the seventh Jack Blackjack mystery, and for the first time, Jack is completely on his own, visiting Devon, the author’s own stomping ground, and visiting territory touched upon in his earlier book (in the Knights Templar series) A Moorland Hanging, although they are very different books. As the Jack Blackjack books are told in the first person, there isn’t as much background as in the other book, but there is certainly enough for the reader to understand what is going on – namely that the miners have their own system of laws (legally) and in their territory, what they say, goes.

I mentioned last time that the Jack Blackjack stories are a curious mixture of historical thriller and farce, as Jack escapes from one peril into another, worse, one as the book goes on, until everything is resolved at the end. That is doing the book a disservice, as it makes it sound like some sort of routine, whereas it is far from that, but readers expecting a standard mystery should be warned – the blurb says that “Jack realizes that the only way to clear his name – and save his skin – is to unmask the real killer.” I suppose that’s true, but for ninety per cent of the book, Jack is only trying to get away. It’s only when he gets into a position where he can’t run – literally – that this strategy is adopted. And luckily, there’s a smarter person that Jack in the room who can spot the real killer…

So it’s not a typically structured whodunit, but that’s fine. I wasn’t expecting one. What I was expecting was an enthralling, engrossing adventure with characters who leap off the page, a  good line of wit in the narration and a mystery to keep the reader guessing. And that’s exactly what I got. I suppose the stand-out mark of quality here is there is a central tragedy being played out, tangential to the mystery plot, and I really felt for the characters involved. They should all be very unpleasant characters, given what they do, but nonetheless…

Michael has a real gift for pulling the reader into his world and never lets me down with his work. This is no exception.

The Moorland Murderers is out from Severn House now – check your local library, as it’s a bit pricey to get your own copy for now.
Was this review helpful?