For a change from my normal diet of SF, I thought I’d have a read of a fantasy novel. As ‘Threads Of Malice’ is billed as weaving together Jones’s unique blend of fantasy, forensics and suspense, it looked to be an interesting take on a field dominated by magic and prophecy. This is Jones’s second novel with the first being ‘Ghosts In The Snow’. Both books chronicle Dubric Byerly Castellan of Faldorrah as he attempts to solve a mystery, although I have to admit I haven’t read ‘Ghosts In The Snow’. That one appeared to have escaped my attention.
Anyway, back to ‘Threads Of Malice’, which opens with a young lad of seventeen summers who has been drugged and kidnapped. He is the latest boy to have been taken by ‘the Dark’ and things don’t look to good for him at the moment. Awaking from the drugged sleep, he finds himself tied naked and face down on a wooden plank before a dais on which sits a corpse holding a whip. The lad’s only hope is Dubric Byerly, Castellan of Faldorrah. A bit of research indicated that ‘Castellan’ was a medieval word for the governor of a castle and its estate in the ruler’s absence. This is in keeping with the general ambiance as Byerly summons his squire and two pages to ready the horses so they can set off from the castle to investigate the latest disappearance immediately.
Byerly is cursed with a gift that allows him to see the ghost of anyone has been murdered. It comes at a price as it causes him headaches and occasionally severe mental discomfort. As he nears the area of the disappearances, more and more ghosts of young boys become visible to him. It’s not long before bodies start turning up and they all have a number of features in common as all the young boys are naked and been raped and tortured. With the assistance of his men, Byerly starts his investigation which is now a race against time to prevent another young lad from being tortured and killed.
As I was reading the story, a few things stuck out like a sore thumb. Firstly, the Squire is asked to do something within ‘half a bell’. I’m assuming a bell is an hour but no time pieces or bells are ever discussed. While a castle could be expected to have a bell, the hovels and hamlets they visit probably don’t but they still use the same time keeping method. Similarly, things are measured in lengths but lengths of what we aren’t told. What really got me going was when Byerly was looking through some cupboards for food and finds a tin of fruit. Really? In this world putting stuff in tins and making tins is a fairly recent development and requires an industrialisation that wasn’t seen in medieval times. There’s also the use of the word ‘okay’ which wasn’t used in medieval times but is used here. It’s not until page 306 we learn that there was an earlier technical civilisation which may explain some of the oddities I mentioned.
There are other things which just don’t fit into a medieval society, such as pencils and notebooks. I realise I might be seen as being pedantic but this is in essence is a detective story and attention to detail is everything. It’s the lack of attention to detail by the author or the editor that lets this book down. It doesn’t work as a detective novel as there aren’t enough clues to give the reader a fair chance to uncover the culprits and it doesn’t work as a standalone novel. It might have read better if I had read the ‘Ghosts In The Snow’ first. Presumably, this would have provided the back story needed to appreciate ‘Threads Of Malice’, although the ending seems very rushed. ‘Threads Of Malice’ is not a book I would recommend unless the reader had already read ‘Ghosts In The Snow’.
(pub: Bantam Spectra. 497 page paperback. Price: $ 6.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN). ISBN: 0-553-58710-2)