The Lions of the North
This is the fourth in the author’s Domesday series. Marston is a highly prolific author with dozens of books under his belt in a wide range of genres. As you’d expect, this mediaeval murder mystery has all the right elements: a complex cast list, plenty of conflict, a reasonably mediaeval setting, and the story moves along at a fast pace.
The Conqueror is on the throne. The premise is that the King’s justiciars are sent to the North to resolve cases, and the leader is happy to renew his friendship with a castellan there. A series of grisly murders ensues, all, it turns out, linked to the castellan and his pets, a pair of well-trained lions. Eventually, the story pieces fall into place, the righteous triumph, and the castellan gets his comeuppance…
Competent as this story is, for me it was lacking something. I simply didn’t become attached to the protagonists, and I felt that the story could have been set anywhere from the Conquest to early Tudor; there was very little that gave you the flavour of a time when the Harrowing of the North took place in living memory. (There was also no author’s note, again perhaps suggestive of relatively shallow research.) Perhaps if I’d read the previous stories in order, there would have been a better build-up.