The Sins of the Father

Written by Catherine Hanley
Review by Alan Fisk

England in 1217 is in turmoil. Many nobles have rebelled against King John and invited the French prince Louis to take the throne. Because of John’s sudden death the year before, William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey and lord of Conisbrough Castle in Lincolnshire, switches his allegiance away from Prince Louis and declares for the young King Henry III and his regent William Marshal. William Marshal calls for the loyal forces to muster at Lincoln, but when another lord and his retinue arrive at Conisbrough for a stopover on the way to Lincoln, there is a murder in the night.

Such a crime would normally be dealt with by Conisbrough’s bailiff, but he is mortally ill, so his son Edwin is ordered to solve the mystery within two days, before the combined retinues leave for Lincoln.

The story is mainly told from Edwin’s point of view, but there are frequent excursions into the minds of other characters. This results in the reader having more information than Edwin does, which makes it too easy to spot the murderer. The Sins of the Father is gripping, nonetheless, with interesting characters who are credibly mediaeval. The author is an academic expert on the period, but she doesn’t deliver a history lesson. Instead, we get a fascinating glimpse of how a mediaeval murder might really have been investigated. Highly recommended.

(Ed. note: This novel was republished by The History Press in 2012 in pb at £7.99.)