August 1144. Osbern de Lench is known far and wide as a hard master, whose temper is perpetually frayed. After riding to survey his land and the incoming harvest from the top of the nearby hill, his horse returns to the hall riderless and the lifeless body of the lord is found soon after.
Was it the work of thieves, or something closer to home? With an heir who is cast in the same hot-tempered mould, sworn enemies for neighbours, and something amiss in the relationship between Osbern and his wife, undersheriff Hugh Bradecote, the wily Serjeant Catchpoll and apprentice Walkelin have suspects aplenty.
This was a really enjoyable medieval murder mystery. I’ve read some of the Bradecote and Catchpoll books before so I knew I was going to read something well written, full of historical detail and with the pacing of a modern crime novel.
Despite the police not existing until the 19th century, the sheriff’s men here are smart and understand crime and criminals more than the real thing might have done. They don’t just go with the most obvious story or agree with the dead lord’s son. They actually investigate the crime – starting with a sort of postmortem, using what little science was available in the 12th century.
The characters of Bradecote, Catchpoll and Walkelin are prototype detectives, using logic and evidence, not superstition and hearsay, to catch their killer. It might take them longer as they’re thorough, but they get justice in the end.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.