A Taste for Killing (Bradecote & Catchpoll 10)

Written by Sarah Hawkswood
Review by Susie Helme

Master Godfrey Bowyer and his wife Blanche are arguing again, and throwing crockery, within earshot of the servants, Gode, Runild and Alwin, who will have to clean up the mess. But before anyone can retire, the Master and Mistress collapse vomiting, the Master to his death. The healer pronounces it a case of poison, and Serjeant Catchpoll is summoned, bringing along his journeyman Walkelin. The bow-maker was little liked, but who would go as far as murder?

They report to the lord sheriff William de Beauchamp, and Catchpoll rides to inform Lord Bradecote. At some point in the past, the Master’s roving eye had caught Runild, and the effect is beginning to show. Mistress Blanche had motive aplenty, but why would she have knowingly taken the poison, too? Godfrey had taken her bowl after she had thrown his against the wall, so it could be that she herself was the intended target. Godfrey’s brother Herluin the Strengere arrives, expecting to inherit the business. He had been seen a week earlier in private conversation with Gode, she gesticulating wildly and saying the word ‘loyal’. He had also had heated words with his brother at the door just before the fateful dinner. Both Herluin and Blanche have secrets in their past. We have suspicions from the start as to the identity of the murderer, but the unravelling of the evidence is interesting.

A good mediaeval whodunnit. Clues are drip-fed as the lawmen interview person after person. There are numerous characters in the town, so we’re on our toes as to who might have had a hand in the murder. I’m not familiar with Worcester dialect, but the language has local flavour. It captures well the mediaeval times, where people rarely venture beyond their own manor or village, rank is all-important, and information spreads slowly.