Vale of Tears (Bradecote & Catchpoll)

Written by Sarah Hawkswood
Review by Nicky Moxey

In the fifth volume in the Bradecote and Catchpoll series, we find Undersheriff Bradecote and his trusty Sergeant puzzling out the intricacies of a series of murders in the Vale of Evesham. Along to learn is Sergeant-Apprentice Wakelin, who proves himself to be a resourceful lad, able to blend in and gain trust, even with his shock of red hair. This is again a thoroughly believable mediaeval tale, with every detail ringing true, down to the colour and breeding of the horses. The plot twists along nicely, with just the right amount of surprise, several bodies, and very little blood – although plenty of suspects, plus innocent villagers, whose stories are woven in well. The satisfactorily villainous baddie turns out to have a grain of goodness in him after all, and we are almost sorry to see him led off to trial…

Ms Hawkswood clearly knows her stuff, both as a historian and a crafter of mysteries; this is a competent and enjoyable book, fitting well into the series. We see character development from all the main characters, with Bradecote becoming more assured in his role, and Catchpole turning a little less hard-bitten. It’s a pleasure to watch Wakelin growing in skill and confidence. If you’ve come across the series before, you don’t need me to tell you that this latest is worth reading; and if you haven’t, then there are four earlier treats in store as well as this!