Faithful Unto Death: A Bradecote and Catchpoll Mystery
This is the sixth, and most recent, of the Bradecote and Catchpoll murder mystery series, and both our heroes (and their trusty apprentice, Wakelin) are on the trail of another body found in mysterious circumstances in the wrong Hundred. (To prevent the off-hand murder of any Norman stupid enough to walk alone shortly after the Conquest, the whole population of a Hundred bears a burden for the murder of a foreigner; unless the body can be named, and isn’t Norman, the whole Hundred will be fined.)
I think this is my favourite of the series so far, as the story twists and turns through the politics of both England and Wales, and the varied depths of loyalty owed, and paid, between servant and Lord, man and wife, mother and sons. This feels more nuanced than other books I’ve read in this series – and I have thoroughly enjoyed those; here, Hawkswood has explored how the dynamics of a whole manor’s-worth of people could play out in unexpected ways, leading to onion layers of clues, and a surprising but satisfying ending. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses given into the differences between Welsh and English law at the time, and the relationship between the two peoples. Hawkswood uses that tension cleverly as a plot mechanism. She also explores the difference between the law and justice, and how one can sometimes seem to be served at the expense of the other. All in all, an excellent read; good as a standalone, but fitting nicely into the series. Recommended.