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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Wolves of Savernake by Edward Marston

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: England in 1086, twenty years after the Norman conquest of England

This novel is the first of Edward Marston's Domesday series.   When William the Conqueror became King of England, he sent investigators out to make a complete inventory of all land in the realm.   The resulting document became known as the Domesday book.  This novel takes place a few years after the initial investigation.

The main characters form a commission whose task is to clear up any inaccuracies and inconsistencies remaining from previous investigations.  The commission is headed by Ralph Delchard.  Ralph is a Norman soldier who fought with William at the Battle of Hastings.  His steadfast leadership ensures victory of a legal nature. And he has an eye out for victory of a more feminine kind.  Delchard is aided by Gervase Bret.  Bret is a highly educated lawyer.  A former monk, he is now betrothed to the lovely Alys.  His trustworthy and chaste courtship of Alys makes him a target of Ralph's lusty jibes.

Just before the commission arrives, a local miller is found savagely murdered in Savernake forest.  It appears that he has been slain by wolf.  It just so happens that his complaints about the ownership of a tract of land have attracted the commission's interest.  Soon the townspeople accuse a local witch who happens to have a dog as a familiar. Could it be that she has used some unearthly power to attack the miller?

As Ralph and Gervase investigate, they uncover forged documents and  counterfeit coinage.  When another man is slain in the forest by the wolf the mystery becomes even more tangled.  Can Ralph and Gervase determine who the land belongs to, uncover who has been counterfeiting money, and solve the mystery of the wolf of Savernake?

This novel was an enjoyable read.  One of the best parts of Marston's novels is his fantastic dialog.  This novel didn't disappoint.  The banter between characters makes them seem alive.  I encourage you to try out one of Marston's novels just to get a taste of that great dialog!

The Wolves of Savernake

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