The Inquisitor
Catherine Jinks

Cover Father Bernard Peyre is the narrator of this tale. Once an Inquisitor of Heretical Depravity, he is now in hiding on false charges of aiding witches. He has set down his tale in a letter to the Master General of the Dominican Order to ask for his assistance in clearing his name.

The book begins with the arrival of Father Augustin Duese to replace the late Father Jacques as head of the Holy Office in Lazet. Father Augustin is a very austere man and looked disfavourably upon some of the actions and inactions recounted in the inquisitorial registers. He begins investigations of many people mentioned in them, but not tried for heretical beliefs. Before his investigations are much advanced he is brutally murdered and his body, and that of his guards, hacked to pieces.

Bernard now not only has to pursue the inquiries Augustin was making, but also investigate his murder. Bernard assumes that the two must be linked. His investigations are proceeding slowly as he has too many tasks he needs to perform. Matters are not made any easier when the replacement for Augustin arrives, Father Pierre-Julien. Bernard knows Pierre-Julien from years ago, and the memory is not a pleasant one. Pierre-Julien is a small minded petty man who enjoys the power the Holy Office gives him to inflict pain on others. Bernard, Augustin and Jacques rarely used torture to in following their investigations. They felt it was not conducive to finding the truth behind matters. Pierre-Julien delights in it's application and uses it on the slightest pretext, even if he has to bend the rules regarding the procedures which must be followed for the testimony obtained to be valid. During these investigations one of the inquisitorial registers disappears and another murder takes place. All the events lead to Pierre-Julien accusing Bernard of aiding witches.

There is of course a lot more to the story than this, but if I elucidate the entire plot there will be no point in reading it.

The novel is written as a first person from Bernard's point of view. Because of this there is little dialogue. A lot of the story is told in Bernard's voice as narration as he writes down his recollection of the events that lead to his current plight.

From what I know of the period Catherine has done an excellent job in recreating the 14th century, even their interesting perspective about women. I laughed when I read it, but appreciated that that was how women were perceived at the time. To know a woman was to consort with the Devil. One wonders how the planned to perpetuate the species with ideology of that nature.

Catherine's writing is excellent as well. It creates a feeling for the period by it's archaic rhythm, but at no stage do any of the characters use the word 'Ye' (except when quoting scripture) in their dialogue. Such affectations are often used in fantasy to create ye-olde-worlde charm. It is a testament to Catherine's skill as a scrivener that she doesn't have to resort to such tactics.

Given all this praise, why haven't I given the book five stars? The book is in essence a crime novel, and it lacks in that regard. The crime and its solution I found a tad predictable. But it is still a highly enjoyable book because of the detail Catherine has given the settings and the characters.

As my rating says, a damn good book well worth reading.