Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review of the Fifth Knight by E. M Powell

 While working on a thorough response to a new academic study of the London't West End entertainment district, I have looked at a late night medieval mystery titled 

The Fifth Knight by E M Powell

I have a special  interest in Henry IV and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I loved the film of "The Lion in Winter" that featured Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn and in 1990 I directed a stage performance of the show that starred Helen Wagner Willey  of Soap Opera As the World Turns fame as Eleanor and  Professor Doug Rankin (a former student and colleague) as Henry IV. 

The Fifth Knight is a neat medieval throwaway romance and it caught my eye because it features a  fictional out of wedlock child and novice nun (Theodosia) of Henry IV and a fictional fifth Knight (Sir Benedict Palmer) who was in the original assassination party that butchered Archbishop Thomas Beckett in 1170 AD. Sir Palmer backs out of the killing and turns to saving the young nun who has been targeted for kidnapping in order to locate her mother.  It is aggressively plotted (perhaps too much so)  and the mistress of Aquitaine turns out to be as nasty as can be in both versions. In this one she has turned a sadistic monk away from service to the King and recruited him to help find and kill the young novice nun (Theodosia) and her mother.

The events may be too cruel and bloody for some readers.  There is some sex, but it hews to the usual “cosy mystery ” understatement.  The Archbishop Beckett killers are portrayed as  murderous monsters. In their best moments they offer rewards for information, renege on payment,  kill the informer, and as added insult burn down the informer's house.  

The romance between our closeted novice nun (Henry IV's love child)  and the semi-chivalric Knight for hire  (Sir Benedict Palmer) is presented on a large golden tee. The pair are such opposites that they just have to end up with each other.  Henry IV is pictured as pictured as more concerned about this than he actually was, but that is the way of fiction overlaid on fact. What you end up with is a nice light novel that will keep you turning pages. .  

Powell has also written another medieval series (The Stanton and Barling Series) from the same time period.  In that series once again two contrasting characters team up to have a go at solving murders in the name of King Henry IV.  


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