The Inquisitor

Catherine Jinks

Pan Books 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 2002
An inquisitor in southern France in the early 14th century, Dominican Father Bernard Peyre's job is rooting out remnant Cathars. Shrewd and empathic, he is an effective inquisitor, but when his superior starts looking through old depositions for evidence of corruption and is brutally murdered, he has to become a detective as well. The Inquisitor starts off as a kind of "inquisition procedural", introducing us to the personnel and workings of the Holy Office and the other powers in the town, the Bishop, the Seneschal, and the Prior. But authorities can't always be trusted, approved procedures are not always followed, and the replacement chief inquisitor is more interested in demonic magic than in heresy — and has a personal grudge against Bernard. Even worse, Bernard has fallen in love, endangering his vows and clouding his judgement, and his situation rapidly becomes untenable.

The Inquisitor purports to be written by Bernard, though of course no one in the 14th century could have written something that works as a modern novel. Clever sleight of hand by Jinks stops us noticing the contrivance, however, and the result works both as a thriller and a historical novel. The background exposition necessary for a reader without knowledge of the period is unobtrusively slipped in and the language and characterisations capture something of "the spirit of the times" without making the novel indigestible. Bernard in particular is a fine psychological study: he may occasionally seem anachronistic in his sensibilities, but he is not just a modern dressed up in historical costume.

January 2002

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%T The Inquisitor
%A Jinks, Catherine
%I Pan Books
%D 1999
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0330361945
%P 393pp