THE WILDCATS OF EXETER by Edward Marston
VOLUME VIII OF THE DOMESDAY BOOKS
St. Martin's Minotaur, January 2001
Lord Ralph Delchard leads his royal commission into Exeter, site of continued Saxon resistance to the recent Norman conquest of England. Their task is to determine legal ownership of lands in conflict but, when one of the claimants is murdered, they must determine whether one of their petitioners may have taken justice into his, or her, own hands. Indeed, few seem greatly put out by the death of Baron Nicholas Picard. His wife barely tolerated him and he had earned a reputation as a ladies man. Still, why would the killer have so brutalized his body?
The claimants include Picard's wife, his mistress, a woman who claims her son was defrauded by Picard, the Saxon who owned the land before the Norman conquest, and an Abbot whose men guarded the gate when Picard rode to his death. Any of them had reason to wish him dead. Yet three women, an ancient Saxon, or a priest would hardly have been able to overcome such a powerful knight. If none of them was involved, however, then whom? Ralph, his assistant Gervase Bret, and their new colleague Hervey de Marigny resolve to find out despite the resistance of the local Sheriff.
THE WILDCATS OF EXETER is well written and provides an authentic feel into that fascinating time when Norman rule was still new and frightfully foreign. Lord Ralph and Gervase are interesting characters and Benedictine Brother Simon provides comic relief. In this novel, at least, Ralph's wife, Golde, is underdeveloped serving largely to accidentally gather evidence. Author Edward Marson (see all BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) would be well advised to give her a larger role in any forthcoming DOMESDAY books.
The combination of a fine mystery, a believable rendition of a fascinating historical period, and several well developed characters give Marston the opportunity to show off his superior writing in a fine novel.
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