Sir Baldwin Furnshill is described, when we first meet him, as “a tall and strong-looking man, obviously a knight, wearing a heavy cloak over a mail hauberk that looked old and appeared to have seen several battles, from the scars and scratches that were visible.” These include a “knife scar from temple to jaw”. He “was tall…. and carried himself like a lord. Broad and thickset under his mail, he stood proud and haughty, like a man who had fought successfully in several battles.” But his face was marked by “deep weals, the lines of pain that stood out, the furrows of anguish that travelled from underneath his eyes, past his mouth, to finish in the hair at his jawline. They pointed to great suffering as if he had known a level of pain so deep as to be almost inbearable, although he did not seem so very old.” He looked “around thirty-five; his dark hair and the neat, almost black, beard just following the line of his jaw seemed to hint at no more than that.” In fact, he was forty-three, and altogether a “quiet, educated and self-possessed knight”.
It turns out that he had just inherited Furnshill Manor in Devon, on the death of his brother, a place to which he returned after 26 years away, during which time he had fought in the Holy Land and become a Templar. But in 1314 the Templars had been closed down on trumped-up charges and declared to be heretics, and Sir Baldwin had had to watch the old and tired-out leader of his order and numerous friends die at the stake in Paris. Having “turned his back on the religious life of a monk”, he had returned to England, hoping to forget the past and settle down to find a wife and have a family. He “had friends within the church …. but for Baldwin, a knight who had taken the three-fold vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, a system that was led by the Pope, a man who had cynically discarded the Templars purely for his own profit, was itself corrupt.” He “was deeply religious, although he detested the Pope and eyed the Church askance”.
He “always wanted to find the truth in any situation” so proves to be an observant and determined detective, once he has overcome his initial “misery and depression” although “he was reserved and cautious with strangers and found it hard to trust people”. He is also, it turns out in the first book, a murderer but no-one seems to worry about this. And it is as a murder suspect that we first meet him. But he soon becomes the Keeper of the King’s Peace for Crediton and helps bailiff Simon Puttock deal with what seem a remarkable number of local murders. He remains abstemious in his habits for, as he tells Simon, “I don’t like too much alcohol”. He is “astute, swift to spot problems with evidence, an acute questioner, and a good companion.”