Harper Collins, £6.99
Will Davenport’s second novel, 'The Perfect Sinner', is a remarkable piece of work, which explores the links between past and present and serves to remind us of the significance of our actions.
Back in the 14th Century, Guy de Bryan was the perfect knight - noble, brave, skilled and chivalrous. However, he has committed three sins, which he fears threaten the sanctity of not just his eternal soul, but that of his beloved wife, Elizabeth.
In order that masses and prayers can be offered up on his behalf he builds a magnificent chantry in Slapton, a small village in south Devon, along with a searing inscription which resonates throughout the centuries.
As a trusted friend of King Edward, Guy is sent on a dangerous mission across the Alps. It is during this journey that an accompanying squire gradually prises out his life story, and ultimately, Guy must finally confess what he has done. What emerges is a tale of honour, rivalry and passion.
In present day Slapton, a young political advisor who is a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq, is hiding from the media as a scandal she was involved in unfolds in London.
As the days pass, Beth Battock begins to find out much more about her family and its links to Guy de Bryan. She must also assess the consequences of her actions and re-evaluate her beliefs. In doing so, she discovers that the lessons learnt by a medieval knight are still relevant today.
In 'The Perfect Sinner', Davenport’s passion for all things historical is evident. He has woven fact and fiction in an ambitious and unique novel that is a fascinating read. Davenport reveals that Guy de Bryan was a real person and is most likely the inspiration for Chaucer's 'The Knight's Tale' from 'The Canterbury Tales', something which makes the story all the more riveting.
The chapters set in the 1300s are beautifully written and provide a convincing account of life in medieval times. Plus, there are more cliff-hangers in this novel than an omnibus edition of a television soap opera. I began each chapter wishing the other hadn’t ended, only to become completely enthralled in the new one within minutes.
Davenport successfully juxtaposes the two stories before introducing, rather unexpectedly, a third storyline, set in 1944, about half way through the book. Beth learns of a momentous occasion in the life of her grandmother, Eliza, and once again Davenport uses war as a backdrop for exploring his themes of passion and the threads that tie generations together.
Although the stories work well together, the fact that the narrative flits between time periods so frequently can lead to confusion. Sometimes, particularly during Guy’s story, it can be difficult figuring out exactly which era is being described. This is not a book you can take your time over as you may struggle to pick up where you left off. In addition, it does seem a little rushed towards the end as Davenport attempts to tie up all the loose ends.
Nevertheless, anyone with a love of historical fiction and hidden truths will thoroughly enjoy this book.