The Hawks of Delamere (Domesday, 7)
On their Royal Commission to investigate, ah, irregularities in the Royal census, the very able team of Delchard, Bret, Canon Hubert, and clerk Simon come across the brutish yet trusted Earl of Chester. The Earl, loyal to the King and hard protector against the Welsh, is both confident of his power and position. He holds a Prince of Wales as a hostage, to ensure the Welsh do nothing… intemperate.
When the team arrive, they discover that Earl Hugh had suffered an insult – a huntsman died from a Welsh arrow that looks like it was intended for himself. When a second body turns up, then Welsh unrest seems a certainty. How do the Royal Commissioners deal with this? They are Crown Officers, but the Intemperate Earl Hugh wants war! How can they avert bloodshed?
This story is excellently written, setting the scene well, and illustrating the uneasy border between England and Wales. Characters are rounded and multilayered, even the unlikeable Earl Hugh. Tensions are clear, but solutions are not.