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.
April 1143. A body is found floating in Fladbury mill leat, a man in green, who has been stabbed but not robbed. The lord sheriff's trio discover him to be an Evesham horse dealer, who has a beautiful young wife who 'strays'. Did the wife or one of her lovers get rid of him? What is the connection with the lord of Harvington, who wed the man's sister, and how did that lady meet her death? What connection is there with the defrocked monk who worked on some leases for the lord and was hanged for theft, and where is the horse dealer's horse? The trio have to work seamlessly together to unravel the thread that links seemingly disparate deaths before even more people die, and in the process keep Walkelin from the noose.
This is Bradecote and Catchpoll’s fifth investigation.
June 1144. When the naked corpse of an unknown man is discovered, and the Prince of Powys's messenger fails to reach Earl Robert of Gloucester, Bradecote, Catchpoll and Walkelin head into Wales to confirm his identity, and piece together evidence that the dead man deserved a noose rather than a dagger. Retracing his steps leads them to a manor with a sarcastic lord, a neglected wife, a bitter mother and a fevered brother, all amidst folk who do not want the truth uncovered. The lord sheriff's men have to unravel a knot where the law and justice seem to be in opposition.
This is Bradecote and Catchpoll’s sixth investigation.
July 1144 . Ricolde, ‘the finest whore in Worcester’, is found butchered on an island a few miles up river. How did she get there, who killed her, and why? Uncovering details of her life and her past reveal a woman with hidden depths and hidden miseries which are fundamental to the answers, but time has cast a thick veil over the killer’s identity. The lord sheriff’s men have a trail that went cold over two decades ago, and evidence that contradicts itself.
In a place Catchpoll knows inside out, he finds things new even to him, and then it becomes personal.
This is Bradecote and Catchpoll’s seventh investigation.
August 1144. Osbern de Lench is known far and wide as a hard master, whose temper is perpetually frayed. After riding to survey his land and the incoming harvest from the top of the nearby hill, his horse returns to the hall riderless and the lifeless body of the lord is found soon after.
Was it the work of thieves, or something closer to home? With an heir who is cast in the same hot-tempered mould, sworn enemies for neighbours, and something amiss in the relationship between Osbern and his wife, undersheriff Hugh Bradecote, the wily Serjeant Catchpoll and his apprentice Walkelin have suspects aplenty.
This is Bradecote and Catchpoll’s eighth investigation.