Top positive review
Well-paced murder mystery - didn't suspect the villain until Hugh got there!
on 19 February 2014
Although the solution to the murder took Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff at Brampton Castle, a little while to discover, the slow pace of the tale somehow made the whole experience more enjoyable, and drew me into the rural world as it was in 1368. What is specially interesting is the background detail, not so much the names for the various dishes served up (having to keep referring to the glossary distracted from the story, and I felt I could have happily read that Kate was preparing what was effectively scrambled egg with onions, without needing to know it was called 'hanoney'), but the references to the 'Statute of Labourers', with its legal ramifications and financial penalties, imposed by those whose interests it served, but evaded wherever possible by the labourers themselves, and ignored by those landowners who, desperate for workers, would pay well above the statutory limit. We tend to 'know' about the downtrodden peasants, but this really brought the situation home.
Apart from Hugh spending much time eating, contemplating the river from the bridge, and enjoying his well-portrayed family of Kate and his baby daughter Bessie, he does a lot of thinking, a little moralising, and shows a great awareness of other people of all degrees. His ability to sway officials away from automatically fixing the blame on the first suspect, imprisoning him, and relying on time in a dungeon or on the rack to force a confession, is impressive, and I find I really like Hugh de Singleton, and the whole community based around the castle. It's just that I'll now have to wait until summer to find out what happens next, after the bad news at the end of the story.