All Hallow’s Eve, 1144. The savaged body of Durand Wuduweard, the solitary and unpopular keeper of the King’s Forest of Feckenham, is discovered beside his hearth, his corpse rendered barely identifiable by sharp teeth. Whispers of a wolf on the prowl grow louder and Sheriff William de Beauchamp’s men, Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll, are tasked with cutting through the clamour. They must uncover who killed Durand and why while beset by superstitious villagers, raids upon manors and further grim deaths. Out of the shadows of the forest, where will the wolf’s fangs strike next?
Sarah Hawkswood describes herself as a ‘wordsmith’ who is only really happy when writing. She read Modern History at Oxford and first published a nonfiction book on the Royal Marines in the First World War before moving on to medieval mysteries set in Worcestershire. Website Twitter
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My thoughts: this is book nine of the Bradecote & Catchpoll stories, but can be read as a standalone book.
Wolves haven’t been seen in England since the Middle Ages, when this is set, so it was rather fun imagining hearing a howl and feeling fear trickle down your spine – a lot better than the closest thing we get nowadays – foxes fighting by the bins.
Serjeant Catchpoll is sent to investigate the apparent murder by a wolf of the local gamekeeper – a rather unpleasant and unpopular man, with a son known to be a cheat.
But something isn’t right, and Bradecote, Catchpoll and apprentice Walkelin (who really comes into his own in this book) start to dig a little deeper as a crime wave seems to be kicking off in the village of Feckenham.
I really like these characters, despite their 12th century setting, they could be modern investigators, using the science available to them and Catchpoll’s gut to catch criminals.
They do spend a lot of time going back and forth to report into the sheriff, who gets personally involved in this case, but there wasn’t really another way to communicate your findings without risking a letter, so lots of walking and riding around the area, trying to keep everything moving along.
Catchpoll is probably my favourite character, he has a real knack for his job and a keen sense for villainy. He’s also very funny, in a dry, sarcastic way that I appreciate. If it was up to him, he’d lock up anyone he thought looked suspicious – just in case. He’s tempered by Bradecote who prefers to have the evidence first, then find the criminal.
I think they’re probably slightly more enlightened than the real 12th century men, women were literally property then, as Bradecote is very fond of his wife and thinks well of her. He also doesn’t cast shame on women who have to make a difficult way through the world – treating them with respect and kindness instead.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.