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The Locksmith's Dilemma

This book documents the misadventures of Girard, a young English locksmith on his journey through 12th century France. Early on, he arrives in Arras where he finds temporary employment on the construction of a cathedral. He makes friends and is attracted to a young street girl, Camille. Life is good; he earns enough to have money to spend and gets drawn into local events. Then Camille is abducted and Girard searches desperately for her. Where he finds her and how he rescues her is best left for the reader to discover.

Afraid of pursuit, the pair flee to Paris: Girard finds a job in a locksmith shop and Camille attends University of Paris, disguised as a boy, Milo, pretending to be Girard's brother. Girard finds it increasingly hard to balance between the masquerade and his love for her. But Camille loves another, a young noble who went on the Crusades.

Friends from Arras join up with them in Paris, and life becomes full again. However, there is much trouble ahead. Girard is forced by the Parisian underworld to open a theft-proof safe and rob the treasure trove of the richest man in Paris. Afterwards he has to deal with the crooks and being pursued by the furious robbed man. Girard and friends have to leave Paris. Girard's relationship with Camille is not any better. He feels his only chance with her is to track down her dream lover in the Holy Land and demystify her memory of him.

Arriving into the tensions of the Holy Land, always on the brink of war and unrest, they find that the man they seek was taken prisoner by Muslim forces. The task seems impossible, but they join a trade delegation to Damascus, where after much difficulty, Girard masterminds an exchange and they return to Crusader lands with Camille's dream lover.

Unexpectedly they are imprisoned by the Templars, who accuse them of treason and selling out Christendom.

Alone in jail and almost insane, Girard engineers their escape. They flee to Muslim-held Alexandria, where they hide from pursuit. Of course trouble finds them, and through hair-raising trials, they again escape, and return to Paris.

But Girard has not been forgotten. The rich man tracks him down and captures him, trying to find out what happened to his treasure. Gambling his and his friends' lives, Girard again wreaks his own brand of justice. How? Readers are advised to find out for themselves.

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In my travels around Europe, I was fascinated by the archtecture of the Middle Ages. I was amazed by the vision and organization that built castles and cathedrals with very few tools. And the faith and motivation that drove such large undertakings. Even today, in conception and excecution, they stand as inspiration to human achievement. The Locksmith's Dilemma tries to get inside those times, taste it, feel it, live it. And it is a good adventure story besides.

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