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Despite resistance from the local Sheriff, Lord Ralph Delchard and his associates investigate both the murder and the property dispute. Each of the five claimants is convinced of the justice of their case. Each had good reason to wish Picard dead (including his unloved wife). Still, three women, an ancient Saxon, and a priest seem unlikely murderers.
Edward Marston does a fine job describing a fascinating time period when Norman rule was still new and still rode like a boot on the Saxon throat. His use of Brother Simon to provide comic relief works effectively to balance the narative and give moments of respite between the investigation. I would have liked to see a more fully developed character in Golde, Lord Ralph Delchard's wife, but otherwise find little to criticize in this fine historical mystery.
The local sheriff insists robbers killed Nicholas, but Ralph Delchard and Gervaise Bret believe the homicide is tied to the land dispute. Each claimant to it, including the non-grieving widow, the mistress, the former landowner, and even the local church abbott had plenty to gain with the removal of Nicholas. Matters turn ugly when one of the administrators, Hervey de Maurighy disappears. William's men want to insure justice occurs even if it means risking their lives to insure it happens.
Volume eight of the Doomsday Books is a finely executed, well-drawn medieval mystery because of the myriad of viable suspects with obvious motives, means, and opportunities. Thus, readers will never guess the identity of the killer with any certainty. Edward Marston paints a tapestry that vividly brings the late eleventh century into full perspective as the monarch's administrator enforce regal policy even to the detriment of a powerful noble. Fans of historical mysteries will take pleasure in THE WILDCATS OF EXETER and search for the previous Doomsday tales.
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