It was not the first clash between the English and the Welsh--and it won't be the last--but it's 1272, which is probably as good a year as any to set a novel--the English have a long history of their "clashes" against those upstarts, the Welch, the Scots, the Irish. The colonies. It's a long history.
Still, "days of empire" is not what Jason Vail is particularly concerned with in his third novelin this series, "A Dreadful Penance."
Lo and behold, a monk has been found murdered in an abbey along the Welch March, just at a time when trouble's a-brewing for another squabble. Sir Geoffrey Randall, coroner of Herefordshire who's in charge, dispatches his trusted deputy Stephen Attebrook to investigate and "to clear things up."
Attebrook is a knight not so long returned from nine years of fighting in Spain. Failing to find fame and fortune--and coming home with part of a foot missing from a battle encounter--he finds employment as the deputy coroner. With his trusty assistant Gilbert, he, along with a retinue from the abbey set out to solve the murder. He finds, in addtion, the struggle between the church and the lord of the manor and some highly irregular activities of the abbey's occupants.
Things, of course, are not as they seem. The murdered monk has a few secrets of his own, not the least of which there are "entanglements" that are leading directly to another fight between the English and the Welsh. The solution of this murder is actually not the point of the book, but rather the political intrigue, the relationships between some of the characters, and the establishment of a good time period for a setting worth studying.
"A Dreadful Penance" is a short book and Vail provides us with two characters not only worth developing but caring about.
Of course, the mystery is solved--not an issue--but the interest is in watching Attebrook get there. Vail's Attebrook has potential. Let's see.