Linda LeBlanc’s lively murder mystery, A Fair Knight Slain, is set in a Renaissance fair, those traveling showcases of medieval culture.
Gunnar the Undefeated, one of the knights who perform daily, is found dead, sliced up with what’s later determined to be the kind of dagger sold at the fair’s gift shops. Sara Lansing, the police detective assigned to the case, is working with Ryker Harris, a new partner from New York who is also on the trail of a big-city drug lord slippery enough to evade arrest so far.
The drug lord is running for mayor of Reunion Heights, the Florida town hosting the Renaissance festival. His opponent for city hall is the police chief, whose mayoral campaign hinges on solving this high-profile murder before the fair closes for the year. Not surprisingly, the chief is pushing for Sara and Ryker to solve the case quickly.
The book is a police procedural with a fresh viewpoint, since the crime and suspects are on festival grounds. LeBlanc, who once worked at a Renaissance fair, clearly knows the territory. Her descriptions of the fair grounds are spot on and often amusing: for example, at the Executioners stage show, one actor greets the audience with: “Welcome to the Renaissance where passions are high and penicillin’s unavailable.”
What seems like a pro-forma investigation gets deliciously complicated by the multiple layers of soap-opera-like drama among the “rennies,” with the added emotional angst of both Sara’s and Ryker’s past histories and turbulent family backgrounds. As the story unfolds, LeBlanc delivers a surprise plot twist that keeps readers hooked.
LeBlanc doesn’t allow much character development initially. Ryker’s dialogue, especially, seems wooden, making his character hard to invest in, and the police chief feels one-dimensional. But the rennies and the many family and romantic relationships that crisscross the storyline largely compensate for this.
Ultimately, A Fair Knight Slain makes the most of its setting, drawing readers in for an entertaining mystery with medieval-style mayhem.