June 1143.The Lord Bishop of Winchester’s Clerk is bludgeoned to death in Pershore Abbey, and laid before the altar in the attitude of a penitent. Everyone who had contact with him had reason to dislike him, but who had reason to kill him? The Sheriff of Worcestershire’s thief taker, the wily Serjeant Catchpoll, and his new and unwanted superior, Acting Under Sheriff Hugh Bradecote, have to find the answer when nobody wants the murderer apprehended - until the next death.
The first in a new series of twelfth century murder mysteries set in Worcestershire during The Anarchy. First published as The Lord Bishop’s Clerk.
September 1143. Serjeant Catchpoll hopes a fire at a Worcester silversmith’s is just an accident, but when there is a second fire, and a charred corpse is discovered, he has no choice but to call in the undersheriff, Hugh Bradecote, to help find the culprit.
With further fires, a hooded figure stalking the streets, and a possible murder that has gone undiscovered for some months, Catchpoll recruits man-at-arms Walkelin as his ‘serjeanting apprentice’. The trio have to work together to avoid getting more than their fingers burnt in this puzzling investigation.
This is Bradecote and Catchpoll’s second investigation.
October 1143. A mysterious archer who kills cleanly and ‘dissolves’ into the forest, a missing train of pack mules on the salt road from Wich, and a lord in the wrong place at the wrong time, mean a crime the lord Sheriff of Worcestershire cannot ignore.
Bradecote, Catchpoll, and the eager Walkelin, are hunting a killer and a gang, and whoever is giving them orders. They are not helped by a reeve keen to keep his position, a lord with his own ends to serve, and a distrusting and vengeful widow with a haunted past, to whom Bradecote is increasingly attracted.
This is Bradecote and Catchpoll’s third investigation.
January 1144 Hugh Bradecote does not want his betrothed heading off on pilgrimage to the shrine of St Egdyth at Polesworth, but the Archbishop of Canterbury's envoy and his entourage of monks seem Heaven sent as escorts, right up until they are captured by a renegade who wants his forger out of the lord sheriff's cells - a renegade who loathes the Benedictines, and kills for pleasure.
Against a backdrop of a hard winter, and even a frozen River Severn, Bradecote and Catchpoll are struggling to rescue the clerics and Christina before a psychopath does his worst, before the lord sheriff loses patience, and before Bradecote cracks under the pressure.
This is Bradecote and Catchpoll’s fourth investigation.