The King’s Hounds
1018. A bloody war has just ended, Viking marauders roam, and tensions between Saxons and Danes are at fever pitch. The Danish king Cnut, now ruler of England, seeks to foster unity. When murder threatens his goals, he looks to an unlikely source to solve it. Chance has thrown together former monk Winston, England’s most talented illuminator, and dispossessed nobleman Halfdan – aptly named, since he’s half Danish and half English. Can they solve the murder(s) before England is plunged into yet another war?
The characterization works well: Winston’s intellectuality plays off of Halfdan’s womanizing rogue. Halfdan as narrator didn’t exactly do it for me (as a woman, I wanted to alternately slap his face and kick him in the…), but he does provide a wry, worldly tone to the story. The casual brutality of the time as well as the politics are aptly portrayed, and the suspects plentiful. No attempt is made at historicity for the dialogue (modern idiom and slang abound), but as this is a translation from the Danish, it’s impossible to tell if this is the author’s or the translator’s choice. Regardless, it doesn’t detract overmuch from the enjoyment of this mystery, which has a novel time period and setting as background.