Early mediaeval mystery fiction has long had its own sub-genres - the medico-legal/grim police procedural (Bernard Knight's Crowner John series), the cozy (Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael), the academic (Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew), the Holmes and Watson [Paul Harding(P C Doherty)'s Athelstan & Sir John] and so on. What there hasn't been a lot of is humour - perhaps because mediaeval life was hardly a barrel of laughs, what with famine, outlaws, unpredictable overlords and the risk of succumbing to a touch of the black death.... Fortunately Simon Beaufort's The Bishop's Brood remedies this. Its heroes are Geoffrey and Roger, two crusader knights who clank, Monty-Python-like, about England in full armour (with good reason: it's only a generation since the battle of Hastings, and the Normans are still about as popular as the Americans in Iraq....). Geoffrey (or Geoff as he is breezily known) is the (fairly) bright one with a conscience, Roger a sort of twelfth century rugby forward: happy-go-lucky, lustful, loyal, and apt to speak before he thinks. Attempting to set sail for the Holy Land from Southampton they end up in snowbound Durham on a secret mission for a devious bishop. The ensuing mayhem involves hidden treasure, stolen relics, a beautiful brothel-keeper, avaricious monks, a bent sheriff, a 90 year old witch who fought at Hastings, a man whose best (and only) friend is a pig and a stream of deaths by crossbow bolt, poison, strangulation, drowning... The plot is satisfyingly complex, the atmosphere of a snowbound city beautifully evoked and the dialogue often laugh aloud funny. But it really, really could have done with a street map: Durham is a very confusing city. Never mind: read and enjoy!