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Wednesday 14 February 2018

‘Marked to Die’ by Sarah Hawkswood

Published by Allison & Busby,
24 August 2017.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2240-2

The year is 1143 and England is being torn apart by the war between two rival claimants to the throne. In Worcestershire, a mysterious archer is picking off packmen transporting salt from Wich and, as soon as he kills his targets, his accomplices hide the bodies and steal the salt. When a swordsman attempts to prevent the robbery, the archer cuts him down. The Sheriff of Worcester has to act to stop the murderous thieves, especially now that a noble lord, Corbin Fitzpayne, has been killed. The sheriff cannot go to Wich himself, so he dispatches his undersheriff, Hugh Bradecote, and the experienced Serjeant Catchpoll.

Bradecote had been spending time on his own estates, making sure everything was in good order for the winter and rejoicing that his infant son is thriving, although he still feels guilty that he does not miss his wife Ela as much as he should, when she died giving birth to his child. He had not intended to return to Worcester so soon but accepts his duty and accompanies Catchpoll to the area where the attacks have taken place. Bradecote and Catchpoll visit the house of Christina Fitzpayne, the murdered lord’s young widow. For Christina, her husband’s death has been a double blow, not only has she lost a lord who was always a kind husband but also the shock caused her to miscarry Fitzpayne’s child. Before her marriage to Fitzpayne, Christina had endured a terrible marriage to an evil and cruel man, Arnulf de Marfleur, and this has twisted her attitude to men and marriage. She had been genuinely fond of Fitzpayne and grateful for his gentleness and respect. She vows to get revenge on those who killed him and were responsible for the loss of her baby, but her interference in investigating the crime brings her into conflict with Bradecote despite their initial attraction.

Bradecote and Catchpoll struggle to discover the motive behind he ruthless robberies. Can it be simply for gain or is there something else behind the thefts and murders? And why should the ruthless archer show mercy to a blind man? Fear is rife in the salt town of Wich, with packmen believing that every cargo they escort will be their last. As Bradecote and Catchpoll draw nearer to the truth the death toll grows and it seems possible the final revelation of the truth will come at a tragic cost.

Marked to Die is the third in the series featuring Bradecote and Catchpoll. It is an excellent series with thoroughly likeable characters and it is especially enjoyable to follow the way the two lead protagonists’ relationship has developed into a mutual respect underpinned by a dry humour. The historical background is totally convincing and the author shows great skill in illustrating the harshness and ruthlessness of the period, where the poor had few rights and even a well-born woman could not easily escape from unwanted, lascivious attentions.
Marked to Die is an engrossing read and definitely recommended.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Sarah Hawkswood read Modern History at Oxford University and specialised in Military History and Theory of War. She turned from writing military history to mediaeval murder mysteries set in the turmoil of The Anarchy in the mid 12thC, all set in Worcestershire, where she now lives. The Bradecote & Catchpoll series began with Servant of Death (previously published as The Lord Bishop's Clerk) set in Pershore Abbey. The second, Ordeal by Fire, is set in Worcester itself, and there are already another five written. Writing is intrinsic to who she is, and she claims she gets 'grumpy' when there is not another manuscript on the go. Her aim is to create a 'world', one in which the reader can become immersed, and with an accurate historical context, not 'dressing up'. Sarah Hawkswood is a pen name.

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, the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book Strangers and Angels published 28 November 2017 is set in Victorian England.  Also published in 2017 is her fourth novel in her scene of Crimes Series Karma and the Singing Frogs.  

To to read a review of Karma and the Singing Frogs, click on the title

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