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on 3 August 2011
I bought this because I've a fondness of historical murder mysteries and to be blunt it was very cheap, and I had no real expectations for it one way or the other

Having read it I can't help hoping this is the start of a series

It's quite a gritty, unsentimental portrayal of the period it's set in, with a nice vein of dark humour running through it. The central characters are quite engaging, as is the central mystery.

Certainly it's written in American English and as an English person I must admit the first time I read "trash" instead of "rubbish" it stood out for a moment, but I soon got caught up enough in the story not to notice, and as they wouldn't have spoken or thought in modern English anyway at the time it's set I don't see that it really matters.

I would have to echo other reviewers comments about it needing a bit of a proof read and about that sex scene, which really was very clumsily written and didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the book.

But other than that I thoroughly enjoyed it and very much hope to see more from this author.
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on 3 May 2017
Didn't quite get the period feel I expected, was too modern
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on 25 December 2012
Although this book had a reasonable story it lacked depth and was a bit too predictable in the end. It was over too quickly.
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on 25 October 2011
This is a book in the mediaeval mystery genre, but Cadfael it ain't! It concerns a young professional
soldier, Stephen Attebrooke, who has had to give up fighting because of an injury and has taken a job as a crown official to make ends meet. I hadn't read very far before I realised its similarities to Mel Starr's Hugh de Singleton novels. Both are set in mediaeval England, both are written by Americans, and both have as heroes young men who are struggling to make a living in their chosen professions (fighting and medicine respectively) and who take official jobs which involve investigating suspicious deaths for the coroner.

But whereas Starr's novels create a sense of time and place, it seemed to me that Vail's could have been set anywhere This is partly because it is written in American English, not just occasional spelling differences (do Americans really spell dowry as dowery or is this just a repeated typo?), but actually using American idioms like "He was through" (finished) and "Gilbert whipped the mule's ass" (luckily he wasn't riding an ass or he would have been whipping the ass's ass!!). Although not always successful, Starr does makes an attempt to differentiate speech patterns in different levels of society. All Vail's characters speak American. If guns and fists were substituted for swords and daggers, this book might as well have been set in the Wild West.

Which brings me to the swords and daggers. Apparently, Mr Vail is some sort of expert on mediaeval hand-to-hand fighting and boy! does it show. Every fight is described in minute detail using technical terms like"Stephen assumed the left tail guard" or "He had achieved the underkey". Boring! There is also a gratuitous sex scene which uses the word "willie" six times in a page and a half. It reminded me of a small boy trying to shock the grown-ups. There are surely enough synonyms for the male member that if we had to have a sex scene, at least it could have been well written!

Have I anything positive to say? Well, the "mystery" is reasonably interesting with a fair number of suspects, but on the whole, I won't be sending for the next volume in the series.
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on 13 November 2017
Poor characterisation, full of errors, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and missing words. This book is in dire need of a decent editor! Got so frustrated at the poor quality that I didn't bother to finish it.
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on 27 January 2017
Gave up on this after "hero" talking to VIcar. Should be priest. Author obviously not done research as this is pretty basic. Poorly proof read or not at all.
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on 6 December 2017
Enjoyed the novelty of a story set in such a different age.
The historical background sounds authentic and provides another layer of interest.
Recommended to anyone who is bored with the usual detective stories.
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on 14 October 2012
I purchased this book because I love the historic town of Ludlow but was sadly disappointed. It was, to put it mildly, unbelievable tosh! Full of historical inaccuracies, it was a laughable excuse for literature. I usually persevere to the end of a book but this one was just too bad. If you are a lover of history - and I mean the real thing - then give this book a very wide berth! C J Sansome has nothing to fear from Mr Vail!!
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on 12 June 2011
Jason Vail's first novel, "The Wayward Apprentice", introduces us to one Sir Stephen Attebrook. An ex-soldier and a lacklustre lawyer, Stephen resides in Ludford at the tavern owned by his clerk, Gilbert Wistwoode, and is the Crown deputy coroner. We open with his being called away from a meal of mutton to the body of one Patrick Carter. Cause of death: knife to the ribs (as we later find out). His corpse is surrounded by the folk who were in the Ludford brewhouse and we are treated to a brief description of medieval England's concept of justice with its jury systems. What seems like a simple drowning is quickly revealed as murder most foul.
In the meantime, Stephen has been engaged by Anselin Baynard to locate and return the runaway apprentice, Peter Bromptone, who has eloped with the beautiful Amicia. The antagonism between the Bromptone family with their patron, Nigel FitzSimmons, and Baynard is pushed to the limit with the firing of the latter's mill. It hasn't helped that Bromptone and FitzSimmons tried to have Stephen ambushed after his pursual of the wayward apprentice.
The other side to the story is revealed by the ex-lover of Carter, Johanna, whose daughter, Pris, is in love with the dead man's son, Edgar. Unfortunately, Johanna has different ideas and is wanting to betroth her daughter to the nephew of the grasping Clement. We get a sense that every character isn't quite revealing the truth and eveything that has happened and will happen is inextricably interlinked. The truth is finally teased out of the younger generation who only wish to be with those they love rather than their more cynical parents who have alternative motives for everything. It means that Stephen finds himself in a duel with FitzSimmons whilst trying to prove that Peter Bromptone hasn't murdered Anselin Baynard who meets a dagger in an alleyway halfway through the book.
We reach a tidy denouement, a story of revenge and family honour. Stephen makes several powerful enemies, for no rich noble likes his murderous laundry laid out for all to see. With his partner in sleuthing, Gilbert, and the gossip-positioned Harry to feed subtle clues to him, Stephen Attebrook is a cautiously welcome addition to the medieval sleuths.
Jason Vail reminds me somewhat of the peerless Susanna Gregory. The setting is eighty-odd years before Matthew Bartholomew and Cambridge, but Vail's pace and easy rhythm coupled with a cast of dozens and a complex unravelling mystery is the closest I've seen to Gregory in considerable time. This is not to say Vail is as good as Gregory, but, if he carries on like this with Sir Stephen in the same settings, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he, one day, is as eagerly sought out by this reviewer as that author is.
Few minor issues:
1) the Kindle version opens each chapter with "Ludlow, September 1262". I suspect each chapter is meant to give an actual day as well as the constant repetition of this is pointless
2) there are some typos in the Kindle version. "Harry's bowel" rather than 'bowl' being somewhat amusing
3) the "erotic" scene in the tavern fairly early on. It's badly done and utterly unnecessary. No more in the next one, please.
Other than that, this author has started pretty well. I'll definitely read the next one.
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on 16 November 2015
Why oh why do Americans imagine that just because they've read a little around a subject that they are then capable of writing a true historical novel about that subject. There are just too many inconsistencies within this novel. A Brother Cadfael series this most certainly isn't. Where Edith Pargeter bothered to do her research and wrote about subjects that she clearly knew, even the better recent American authors publishing this kind of derivative tale fall at the first hurdle. They make so many assumptions, use so many anachronistic details and when in doubt seem to just hope for the best. The worst thing is that so often they do some research, as Jason Vail clearly has done, but ruin it with the Americanised language, with no effort to reflect the knowledge or language of the time.

In this particular tale the idea of a knight having previously been apprenticed as a lawyer seems wrong. This is about 50 years before the concept of lawyers came into being in Britain, and even then such lawyers were normally Canon lawyers and therefore clerics. Knights would have served as pages and then squires to other knights, as even the most rudimentary of searches on the web will reveal. A butler didn't have the importance or social standing that they had 400 years later - the author might have meant a Steward, although even that term is more associated with Elizabethan rather than Medieval England. Unless he was one of the very wealthiest men in the area, such as Lawrence of Ludlow, it's highly improbable that the merchant described would have had the servants mentioned. Woollen-mills themselves tended to be owned by monasteries although there were evidently some rich woollen-merchants around at this time.
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