Today is publication day of A Taste for Killing, the latest book in Sarah Hawkswood’s Bradecote and Catchpoll historical crime series. To celebrate I’m joining other book bloggers in sharing my review of this the tenth book in the series. My thanks to Christina at Allison & Busby for inviting me to take part in today’s blitz and for my digital review copy via NetGalley.
About the Book
Godfrey Bowyer, the best but least likeable bow maker in Worcester, dies of poisoning, though his wife Blanche survives.
The number of people who could have administered the poison should mean a very short investigation for Bradecote and Catchpoll, but perhaps some was pulling the strings, and that widens the net considerably.
Could it be the cast-out younger brother or perhaps Orderic the Bailiff, whose wife has been pressured into a relationship with Godfrey?
Could it even be the wife herself? With Bradecote eager to return to his manor and worried about his wife’s impending confinement, and Walkelin trying to get his mother to accept his choice of bride, there are distractions aplenty, though Serjeant Catchpoll will not let them get in the way of solving this case.
Format: Hardback (320 pages) Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 12th May 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime
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I first came across Bradcote and Catchpoll when I read River of Sins, the seventh book in the author’s historical crime series set in 12th century Worcester. That was back in December 2020 and since then I’ve devoured both the subsequent books in the series – Blood Runs Thicker and Wolf at the Door.
A Taste for Killing takes up directly from events at the end of the previous book with Undersheriff Hugh Bradecote and his wife anxiously awaiting the birth of their second child. Mindful of Bradecote’s situation, Serjeant Catchpoll initially takes on the investigation into the murder of wealthy burgess, Godfrey Bowyer, with only the assistance of recently promoted Underserjeant Walkelin. Although it appears there are only a few individuals who would have had the opportunity to administer the poison, the murdered man had no shortage of enemies in the city.
The author gives us a real taste of what it must have been like to live in 12th century Worcester, conjuring up the sights, sounds and smells, as well as a sense of the local dialect (although Bradecote being a lord of the manor speaks Norman to his peers, or ‘Foreign’ as the locals call it).
Over the course of the series, the duo of Bradecote and Catchpoll has evolved into a trio with the addition of Walkelin who has grown from eager apprentice to becoming an integral part of the team, honing his ‘serjeanting senses’ along the way. He’s observant, has a good sense of intuition and can mingle with servants and traders. Even after all this time, Catchpoll still casts a proprietorial, sometimes approving, eye over Bradecote’s interrogation techniques whilst recognising that Bradecote’s rank can open doors that would otherwise be closed to him. Not so much good cop, bad cop as toff cop, common cop. What all three share is tenacity. As Walkelin observes, ‘Oft times we are called the lord Sheriff’s law hounds, and like a hound, we cannot leave a scent uninvestigated, a warm trail to go cold without us sniffin’ at it.’
The domestic side is not ignored either. Bradcote’s concern for his wife is endearing and Catchpoll has a caring wife always ready with a cup of warmed cider or advice to wrap up warm. Walkelin’s hopes of matrimony rest on his persuasive skills but it’s surprising what a way with preparing the ever-present pottage can do to change minds.
The unravelling of the mystery is nicely managed with a few red herrings along the way and a plethora of possible motives. As is often the case, Catchpoll’s local knowledge of family relationships and past grievances, as well as his ability to have his ear to the ground for gossip, are important in solving the mystery. His reputation as ‘a wily old bastard’ helps too. But young Walkelin plays his part as well, uncovering the nugget of information that proves someone is not what they profess to be.
If you’re looking for a enjoyable mystery with a well-constructed plot, colourful characters and interesting historical detail then I can heartily recommend A Taste of Killing. Or if you really want to indulge yourself, why not go back and read the whole series from the beginning (as I hope to do one day).
In three words: Engaging, intriguing, absorbing
Try something similar: The Monastery Murders by E. M. Powell
About the Author
Sarah Hawkswood describes herself as a ‘wordsmith’ who is only really happy when writing. She read Modern History at Oxford and first published a non-fiction book on the Royal Marines in the First World War before moving on to medieval mysteries set in Worcestershire.