Blood Runs Thicker (Bradecote & Catchpoll 8)

Written by Sarah Hawkswood
Review by Kate Pettigrew

In 1144, the peasants in the Worcestershire village of Lench are hurrying to get the harvest in before rain falls. Their bad-tempered lord Osbern de Lench has taken his daily ride up a hill to survey both them and the land he owns. However, his horse returns without the lord on it, and he is later found murdered. Enter undersheriff Hugh Bradecote, his Serjeant Catchpoll, and apprentice Walkelin to solve the crime. The lord’s oldest son, Baldwin, whose mother died some years ago in a mysterious riding accident, accuses his stepbrother, Hamo, of the murder. Hamo, who is regarded as strange, is defended by his mother, the lord’s unhappy second wife. But there are plenty of others who might have reason to want the lord dead, including his neighbours and probably most of the village. Bradcote and Catchpoll work their way through the tightly plotted red herrings as Walkelin watches and learns.

It’s very much a 12th-century murder procedural but made richer with insights into society: the legacy of the Norman Conquest; the effect of the current, but distant, civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda; and the difficult role of women and peasants. The writing of Hamo as possibly someone with Asperger’s syndrome adds a poignant touch. It is the eighth book in the Bradcote and Catchpoll series, which have proved popular with readers, and it’s easy to see why. One for armchair detectives and fans of Cadfael.