Reviewed under original title 'The Lord Bishop's Clerk'
"Sarah Hawkswood’s superb debut ... Hawkswood’s previous work has been as a military historian – and how it shows with magnificent attention to period detail bringing 12th century Pershore and abbey life to the page in almost a scenic way … All-in-all this is a clever, very well written and extremely enjoyable murder mystery. I absolutely loved it!" Crime Review
"This convincing medieval murder mystery is set during a time of rivalry for the English throne by William the Conqueror’s grandchildren, and Hawkswood leaves the reader guessing to the well-written end." Historical Novel Society
"... possibly the most easy to read historical mystery of the year. Whether it’s action, reflection, deep personal feelings, description or even repeated gossip, her elegant and carefully chosen prose keep you glued to the page. She creates a medieval world of her own – and drags the reader deeply into it ... This is as much a tale of personalities, relationships and ambitions as it is of murder and Hawkswood’s ability to bring even her most minor characters to vivid and realistic life gives it a must-read quality. It will be interesting to see how these characters develop through the series." Crime Review
"The author’s detailed research is obvious without ever overwhelming the narrative, and the details of everyday life in medieval Worcester provide fascinating background and the hint of many future outings for the duo. Ordeal by Fire is an ideal choice for fans of Ariana Franklin, Peter Tremayne and S.D. Sykes." Historical Novel Society
"Ordeal by Fire does not flinch from describing the ugly reality of life in the 12th Century: families left destitute when their businesses are destroyed, healthy young women dying in childbirth, orphaned girls being forced into prostitution to feed younger siblings and the ugly prejudice that will let a Jewish man’s house burn while no-one in the crowd lifts a finger to aid him.
I found the characters and description of medieval life in Ordeal by Fire thoroughly engaging and the book is beautifully written. I would whole-heartedly recommend it. A page-turner." Mystery People
"If you like Ellis Peter’s excellent Cadfael books, you’re sure to enjoy this. The research and writing is first class, but what I feel truly gives it an edge is the dynamic between Bradecote and Catchpoll, readers will really take to them." Destructive Music
Myshelf.com - In Rachel A Hyde's Top 10 books of the year.
"Marked to Die is the latest- and best- chronicle of Sarah Hawkswood's books featuring two very realistic and likeable characters: the 12th century detective duo of Bradecote and Catchpoll ... This medieval procedural charms its way past all obstacles. Whether it's action, reflection, personal feelings, simple, but vivid, description, humour, or even repeated gossip, Hawkswood's elegant prose will keep you turning the pages. Her ability to bring even the most minor characters to life in a credible and well-researched setting gives this story a must-read quality." John Cleal - Crime Review
"It is an excellent series with thoroughly likeable characters and it is especially enjoyable to follow the way the two leading protagonists' relationship has developed into a mutual respect underpinned by a dry humour. The historical background is totally convincing and the author shows great skill in illustrating the harshness and ruthlessness of the period."
Carol Westron - Mystery People
"The story unravels with many twists and turns and, in doing so, describes the way of life in the 12th century. The characters are well developed, and the many dead ends keep the reader's interest and the pages turning."
Historical Novels Society
"One of the best histmyst series around right now that reminds readers how good this type of thing can be when played straight with likeable characters and a really involving plot. Highly recommended."
Rachel A Hyde - MyShelf.com
"The medieval environment is carefully crafted ... there's lot of careful research and love and attention gone into this book - a fair and funny plot with a unique band of characters and an illuminating view into the life of another time."
"Fans of historical mysteries, especially Ellis Peters' Cadfael series, Ariana Franklin's Mistress of Death series and Bernard Knight's Crowner John, will find much to enjoy here - as indeed will anyone with a fondness for a good mystery in a well realised setting."
The Shelf of Unread Books
"Sarah Hawkswood has a lovely, easy to read writing style . . . Definitely one for the historical crime novel fans."
"Hostage to Fortune is the fourth in the Bradecote and Catchpoll mysteries and this is a series that started well and grows stronger all the time. Both characterisation and historical detail are impeccable and the plot is intriguing and cleverly interwoven. . . Hostage to Fortune is a thoroughly enjoyable read, whch I recommend."
Carol Westron- Mystery People
"I wasn't disappointed. The plot tears along without the hint of formula, and the characters are sympathetically drawn and believable. The author's historical background shines through- this is one of my favourite eras of history, and I'm picky about the detail; this is flawless, nuanced, rich. If you're looking for something reminiscent of the Ellis Peters' books, but in a lay context and therefore with the opportunity for strong female leads, you'll enjoy this."
Historical Novel Society Review
"This is again a thoroughly believable mediaeval tale, with every detail ringing true, down to the colour and breeding of the horses. The plot twists along nicely, with just the right amount of surprise, several bodies, and very little blood – although plenty of suspects, plus innocent villagers, whose stories are woven in well. The satisfactorily villainous baddie turns out to have a grain of goodness in him after all, and we are almost sorry to see him led off to trial…
Ms Hawkswood clearly knows her stuff, both as a historian and a crafter of mysteries."
Historical Novel Society
"I think this is my favourite of the series so far, as the story twists and turns through the politics of both England and Wales, and the varied depths of loyalty owed, and paid, between servant and Lord, man and wife, mother and sons. . . Hawkswood has explored how the dynamics of a whole manor’s-worth of people could play out in unexpected ways, leading to onion layers of clues, and a surprising but satisfying ending. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses given into the differences between Welsh and English law at the time, and the relationship between the two peoples. Hawkswood uses that tension cleverly as a plot mechanism. She also explores the difference between the law and justice, and how one can sometimes seem to be served at the expense of the other. All in all, an excellent read; good as a standalone, but fitting nicely into the series. Recommended."
Historical Novel Society