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Tuesday 27 January 2015

‘Threads of Treason’ by Mary Bale

Published by Claymore Press. 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-7815-9100-8

It is 1081, fifteen years after the Norman Conquest, and the great tapestry commissioned by Bishop Odon of Bayeux (known to the English as Odo) is nearly complete. Odon intends the tapestry to immortalise the victory of his half-brother, William, Duke of Normandy, which lead to his conquest of England. The tapestry is being created in Canterbury, using Anglo-Saxon nuns whose greatest skill is in fine needlework, and Odon intends to present the tapestry to his brother when the entire Royal Court is assembled to celebrate Christmas.

The tapestry is almost finished when an attempt is made to destroy it by staining it with ink. The attack fails and the tapestry is undamaged but, directly afterwards, two nuns, one an imposter and the other, Ursula, the prioress of the order, fall from the tower. After their funerals, Odon, uncertain whom in England he can trust, returns to Normandy and sends Abbess Eleanor and her protégé, the novice, Therese, to discover the truth. Eleanor is an old friend of Ursula, the disgraced prioress, and is determined to clear her name. On their journey to England, Eleanor tells Therese that Therese had been born an Anglo-Saxon, in the summer of 1066. As a tiny baby, she had survived when all around her had died. She was rescued by Bishop Odon, sent to Normandy and placed in Eleanor's care.
Their journey is fraught with danger and the suspicion of treachery and when they reach Canterbury it becomes obvious that it is Therese, who is young and unknown, who must enter the priory and discover the truth. Although intelligent and well educated, Therese is caught in a web of political intrigue where few people are what they seem. Hearing a different side to the story of the Conquest than the one she has been brought up with, she finds herself torn between her Norman upbringing and her Anglo-Saxon birth. Therese realises that she is in danger but cannot tell who are her enemies, or what is behind the threat.

Threads of Treason is a fascinating historical mystery that weaves historical facts and political intrigue with a fictional crime to illustrate the conflicting attitudes of conquerors and the inhabitants of an invaded country while the wounds are not yet healed. The story is told from the Norman point of view that taking possession of England was in every way their right, however, the author cleverly introduces conflicting attitudes when Therese encounters Anglo Saxon and Welsh people with their very different points of view, and throughout the book Therese is torn two ways, with all her old certainties destroyed. This is an enjoyable read, containing an interesting slant on history.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Mary Bale  was inspired to write about the Normans in Britain after visiting Normandy and seeing the Bayeux Tapestry.
Mary Bale lives in Scotland with her husband and has two grown up children.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013

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