#2 in the Domesday medieval mysteries, featuring Gervase Bret and Ralph Delchard and their cohorts Canon Hubert and Brother Simon, who travel around England at the behest of King William the Conqueror. The year is 1086, and the mission of our motley crew is to compile a so-called Domesday Book, in which every person and their lands are catalogued--and of course, appropriately taxed. They investigate cases of fraud, where landholders bilk other people out of their rightful property on the sly and in doing so avoid paying the taxes owed the King.
In this case, they are off to Blackwater Hall near the town of Maldon in Essex. The local lord, Hamo FitzCorbucion, has apparently been stealing lands for years and several have finally complained, despite the risk of being killed for speaking out. Upon arrival, Gervase and Ralph learn that Hamo is out of the country and his eldest son Guy has just been brutally slain. Gervase, a lawyer, becomes interested in the case and they come to the conclusion that the murder is indeed related to their land-grab
investigation, and thus they stay to get it all sorted out.
This is only the second in the series, but already I think it will become one of my favorites. Gervase and Ralph are two very different characters--Gervase being a gentle soul who is betrothed to his beloved Alys and chaste, Ralph being a Knight who fought in King William's battles to conquer England and a man of lusty appetites. While this does occasionally cause some conflict, the two genuinely like each other and are friends, so it works well. The two clerics who travel with them round off the foursome, and the secondary characters are also interesting and well-drawn.
The mysteries are also well-done, with plenty of clues dropped along the way, including some enticing red herrings that always seem to lead me astray to the wrong conclusion. I'm not often surprised anymore, so that's always a treat. I did figure out part of this one but not until very close to the end. Well done and looking forward to more! A+
I have not read this particular novel, but the author has written many other mysteries in this series, and I expect this one is as good as all his other books.