The Merchant Murders

Mysterious Book Report No. 503

by John Dwaine McKenna

As The Merchant Murders, (Severn, $29.99, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-7278-5092-8), by Michael Jecks opens, it’s the middle of the 16th century in not-so-jolly old England, where we continue following the adventures of a daring, raffish and rascally young rogue named Jack Blackjack . . . who’s an assassin in the employ of Lady Elizabeth—Queen Mary’s sister—at a time when the battle between Catholicism and the recently established Protestant Church of England was raging.  It was an epoch in which one’s survival could be determined at an instant’s notice by religious affiliation . . . and so we find Jack in Devon, England,  where he’s looking for a ship, sailing for France.  He’s flown London, fearing arrest and torture because of his affiliation with Elizabeth, who some suspect might be plotting to seize the throne by force.  But no sooner than arriving in Devon, Jack stumbles over the dead body of a man named Roger Lane, found in an alley with his head crushed by a cudgel.  Lane, a roving Romeo, was a man with many enemies . . . from betrayed husbands to angry Anglicans . . . but Jack suspects his murder may be related to the dispute between two local merchants who both recently lost ships at sea to piracy.  Jack thinks that Lane was caught in the deadly feud between the two angry importers, who blame each other for their loss.

The plot is gripping, the language is lively, the history is impeccable and the characters are accurately drawn. Mr. Jecks, with more than 45 novels to his credit has spun another rollicking, fast-paced and delightful historical fiction with this, Jack Blackjack’s seventh adventure!!

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