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Friday 9 April 2021

‘Blood Runs Thicker’ by Sarah Hawkswood

Published by Allison & Busby,
18 March 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-74902715-5 (PB)

Set in 1144 during the dark days of the feudal system, the body of the Lord of the Manor, Osbern de Lench is discovered near the top of the hill where he rides every day at noon. His death appears to be mourned by no one. He was a hard task master with a vicious temper which he was always quick to take out not only on the peasants subject to his authority but the wife he despised and his two sons. Even his neighbours had become sworn enemies. When Hugh Bradecote, Undersheriff of Worcestershire and his men arrive to find the killer, they have suspects aplenty to choose from.

As evocative of the period as Ellis Peters Cadfael novels, the harsh conditions of the peasants as they struggle to bring in the harvest and the powerlessness positions that the women find themselves in are deftly handled. Though they accept their status, they refuse to be bowed down by it. It is an indication of the strength of Hawkswood’s talent for characterisation, that none are daunted by their situation. In the main, the men are determined and there is a definite feisty streak in the women. From the major players in the story – Hugh Bradecote, the fair-minded Undersheriff of Worcestershire; wily Serjeant Catchpoll and his enthusiastic young apprentice Walkelin to Baldwin the eldest son of Osbern de Leche, much like his irascible, hot-tempered father; his autistic stepbrother Hamo and young Hild who is suddenly thrust into the role of Healer when her mentor is murdered – each character is truly memorable.    

There are many twists and turns in the plot of this medieval police procedural as the investigators try to unravel the clues from the red herrings in this tangled web of treachery, duplicitous characters and downright malice.

Blood Runs Thicker is the eight Bradecote and Catchpole mystery though it is the first of Hawkswood’s mediaeval series that I have read. It will not be the last. Stylishly written, fast-paced this is a great read that kept me turning the pages long into the night. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read in some time. I loved it and heartily recommend it.

Reviewer: Judith Cranswick   

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.

Judith Cranswick was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’

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