Sheriff & Priest

Written by Nicky Moxey
Review by Richard Lee

This story of Wimer, a little known 12th-century churchman, is inspired by field archaeology. Nicky Moxey is the proud discoverer of the Priory that Wimer built, and her novel grows from the surviving records about an unusual man, who finds (and loses) his place in the turbulent world of Henry II’s reign.

It is primarily a biographical novel. Wimer is engaging from the start, drawn as a poor but gifted Saxon whose intelligence and application enable him to rise in the primarily Norman church. As the title suggests, Wimer’s ability sees him become sheriff, but the politics of church and State eventually prove an impossible tightrope for him to walk.

What is great about this novel is the easy amiability of Wimer’s character, the close and accurate scene-setting, the way the author can suggest religious questions without them seeming alien, and the sense of reality in the day-to-day world of Wimer’s Suffolk. The language is quite modern, but I found it effective and easy to engage with. Perhaps there is not a strong enough story arc to appeal to a general reader, nor is it ‘literary’ in aspiration. But for those of us already fascinated by the period, wanting a light shone on areas other than the court, this is interesting and enjoyable—something to read before a visit to an Anglo-Norman church or a ruined Abbey.