I borrowed this book from Steve on Monday and read it on my way back to Clerksville from D.C. (where the job hunt goes on). Like Eugene Volokh, I found it to be a gripping read. I usually don't care too much for nonfiction, but this has a great storyline in addition to providing tons of weird information about the legal institution of trial by combat in France.
In brief: two friends, vassals of the same liege lord, become enemies as the lower-born but politically suave Le Gris rises in society and obtains the advantages to which the more aristocratic Carrouges felt he was due. When the down-on-his-luck Carrouges remarries, his beautiful young bride catches the eye of his adversary. She later claims that Le Gris found her alone and raped her. He denies it, and his friend and liege supports him. Carrouges believes his wife's claim and demands trial by combat. Surprisingly, the king and parlement of Paris grant his request. Three lives hang in the balance: Le Gris's, Carrouges's, and Marguerite's, who watches from a black-draped scafford and will be burned at the stake for the crime of swearing a false claim if Le Gris triumphs. The battle is intense, starting with a joust, progressing to axes and swords, and continues until a dagger decides the case. Will justice be done? Was Marguerite raped by Le Gris, or is this just another attempt by Carrouges to bring down his rival? Could it be a case of mistaken identity?
I'm thinking this should be a Studio Canal production with Gerard Depardieu as Carrouges, Jean Reno as Le Gris, and Eva Green as Marguerite. Who should be cast in the inevitable American remake?