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Friday, January 31, 2014

The King's Hounds by Martin Jensen

Translated by Tara Chace

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: England in the 11th century

First sentence:  The prior had allowed Winston to have his way.

This novel is the first in Jensen's King's Hounds series.

FYI: Some adult content - one scene in the early chapters.

Cnut (pronounced Cannute) Sweysson is on the verge of becoming king of all England.  To this end he has called all of the leading nobles to a meeting at Oxford.  There he hopes to unite England under one ruler and one system of laws.  The nobles consist of a mixture of Saxons, Angles, Vikings, Danes, and Jutes.  It is an accomplishment to gather these nobles in a state of relative peace.

The last thing Cnut needs is a cold blooded murder.

A Saxon thane has been slain.  Some believe that Cnut has ordered the killing.  Cnut need this murder solved quickly.  But where can he find investigators without ulterior political motives?

This is where our intrepid main characters become involved.  Winston is a manuscript illuminator.  His work is exquisite and in high demand.  Since he works independently, he owes no allegiance to any lord.  His friend, Halfdan, is a former noble.  He lost his inheritance when his father and elder brother fought and died on the losing side of the war.  He does not hold Cnut responsible for their deaths.  He knows that his father's turncoat leader is to blame.

In Winston and Halfdan, Cnut finds his neutral investigators.  Cnut orders them to solve the murder before the great meeting which is in three days.

Using their wits and experience, Winston and Halfdan pursue the truth.

Will they discover the identity of the killer, and avoid any political entanglements, in just three days?

I enjoyed this novel.  The translator did a great job of telling the story in English using a nice easy to read style.  The occasional use of a modern English idiom made the reading fun.  There is a large number of characters to keep track of.  The plot mostly consists of Winston and Halfdan questioning different people and sorting out truths from lies.  Then there are a few fight scenes which serve to liven things up.

For me, this novel was a fun read.

The King's Hounds - The 1st book in the series.   Oathbreaker - the 2nd book in the series


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