#BookReview Wolf at the Door (A Bradecote and Catchpoll Investigation 9) by Sarah Hawkswood @AllisonandBusby

I’m delighted to be joining other book bloggers in celebrating publication today of Wolf at the Door, the ninth in Sarah Hawkswood historical mystery series.

Wolf at the DoorAbout the Book

All Hallow’s Eve, 1144. The savaged body of Durand Wuduweard, the solitary and unpopular keeper of the King’s Forest of Feckenham, is discovered beside his hearth, his corpse rendered barely identifiable by sharp teeth.

Whispers of a wolf on the prowl grow louder and Sheriff William de Beauchamp’s men, Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll, are tasked with cutting through the clamour. They must uncover who killed Durand and why while beset by superstitious villagers, raids upon manors and further grim deaths. Out of the shadows of the forest, where will the wolf’s fangs strike next?

Format: eARC (288 pages)                Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 19th August 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

Find Wolf at the Door (A Bradecote and Catchpoll Investigation, #9) on Goodreads

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My Review

I’ve become a big fan of Sarah Hawkswood’s historical mystery series set in medieval Worcestershire and featuring Hugh Bradecote, Undersheriff of Worcestershire, his assistant Serjeant Catchpoll, and Catchpoll’s protege, Walkelin. Luckily new books in the series are coming thick and fast with River of Sins published in November 2020 and Blood Runs Thicker in March this year.

Although the ninth in the series, I can reassure readers that Wolf at the Door can definitely be enjoyed without having read any of the previous books. The references to earlier events and to the back stories of the leading characters will help to bring new readers up-to-date.

As with previous books, Wolf at the Door has all the features of a police procedural but transported to medieval times: examining crime scenes (rather gruesome ones in this case), gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and identifying possible suspects. Walkelin even tries his hand at the odd spot of surveillance.

Bradecote and Catchpoll make a great team. Catchpoll has an in-depth knowledge of their patch, the ne’er do wells who reside in it and possesses the keen eye of a detective. He also has a reputation for taking no nonsense. For example, when Catchpoll states his intention to have ‘interesting words’ the following morning with a suspect taken into custody, the thought of it makes several observers shudder and thank their lucky stars it’s not them. And we shouldn’t forget Walkelin, Catchpoll’s apprentice, who adds youthful enthusiasm and some keen observational skills to the mix.

Bradecote may not have the detective nous of his sergeant but he has the ability to use his status to gain access to people and places that would otherwise be denied, or to intimidate others. In fact, he and Catchpoll often use not so much a ‘good cop, bad cop’ strategy as a ‘toff cop, common cop’ approach with advantageous results. As Catchpoll grudgingly concedes, Bradecote’s ‘high-and-mighty arrogance laid on thick, works a treat’.

This time Bradecote and Catchpoll don’t just face the challenge of investigating a murder seemingly without motive but doing so within a community terrified by talk of wolves or, even worse, werewolves. Furthermore, Bradecote has a particular reason for wanting to solve the case quickly.

As the investigation progresses, there are tantalizing clues and false trails many of which seem to lead to nearby Feckenham Forest. The author keeps the tension building with some dramatic scenes as Bradecote and Catchpoll close in on the culprits and the reader discovers just what lengths they are prepared to go to.

Wolf at the Door is another skillfully crafted mystery that moves at pace and has plenty of period detail. I’m already looking forward to the next investigation for Bradecote and Catchpoll due to be published next year.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Allison & Busby via NetGalley.

In three words: Intriguing, atmospheric, assured

Try something similar: The Monastery Murders by E. M. Powell

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Sarah HawkswoodAbout the Author

Sarah Hawkswood describes herself as a ‘wordsmith’ who is only really happy when writing. She read Modern History at Oxford and her factual book on the Royal Marines in the First World War, From Trench and Turret, was published in 2006. The Bradecote and Catchpoll series are her first novels.

She takes her pen name from one of her eighteenth century ancestors who lived in Worcestershire, and selected it because the initials match those of her maiden name. She is married, with two grown up children, and now lives in Worcestershire.

She is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, the Historical Writers’ Association, and the Historical Novel Society.

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#BookReview A Corruption of Blood (Raven, Fisher, and Simpson, 3) by Ambrose Parry @canongatebooks

A Corruption of BloodAbout the Book

Edinburgh. This city will bleed you dry.

Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman.

Back at 52 Queen Street, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out.

Raven’s efforts to prove his erstwhile adversary’s innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah’s help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations will take them to both extremes of Edinburgh’s social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.

Format: eARC (416 pages)                Publisher: Canongate
Publication date: 19th August 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

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My Review

A Corruption of Blood has all the period atmosphere that was such a feature of its predecessors, The Way of All Flesh and The Art of Dying, transporting the reader to a 19th century Edinburgh in which seedy, crowded tenements inhabited by the poor coexist with the elegant, spacious houses of the wealthy. Although the third in the series, A Corruption of Blood can be read as a standalone although there are references to key events in the earlier books making them best read in order for maximum enjoyment.

Dr. Will Raven is no longer Dr. James Simpson’s apprentice but his assistant. However, he still battles to control what his friend Henry describes as his ‘perverse appetite for mayhem’ and remains plagued by fears he has inherited the violent tendencies of his father. In fact, the debate over whether character traits are inherited is a theme of the book, with some believing that indolence and immorality are destined from birth and others arguing that poverty is the cause of many of society’s ills. It later transpires that the idea of ‘a corruption of blood’ as in the title can have other consequences.

Sarah Fisher has left behind her former life as a servant in the Simpson household. However, even helping Dr. Simpson with the patients who attend his clinic is no longer sufficient for her. She longs to pursue a career in medicine, a profession in which few other women have succeeded, not least because of opposition from men who believe medicine an unsuitable job for a woman. As Sarah observes, the world is controlled by men.

The spark of attraction between Will and Sarah that looked likely to ignite in the first book seems to have become friendship and mutual respect. Will is still aware of the difference in their social status and Sarah has reason to fear her position in Will’s affections has been usurped by someone who offers him greater social advantages, especially for a man who has ambitions to set up his own practice. Despite all this, do they have a future together? This reader certainly hopes so.

Will and Sarah soon find themselves engaged in investigating the death of a wealthy member of Edinburgh society. As they discover, ‘powerful men accumulate powerful enemies’, especially if they are in possession of secrets. Together they make an effective team, possessing complementary skills: Will with his medical knowledge, familiarity with the city’s ‘underbelly’ not to mention being handy with his fists, and Sarah with her ability to elicit information from the lower sections of society. They’re not the only one on the case as there’s an appearance by James McLevy, the famous Edinburgh detective (also brought to life in fictional form in David Ashton’s historical mystery series).

As Will and Sarah press ahead with their enquiries, keen for their investigation to bear fruit, the reader may believe they know exactly who the culprit is but there are times when it’s wise to wait for a second opinion or to revisit your initial diagnosis. And, along the way they uncover a shocking secret that sets the city alight with outrage and a demand for justice.

A Corruption of Blood is another skilful combination of intricately plotted mystery, engaging leading characters and great period atmosphere. The pace is helped by the short chapters, particularly as the book reaches its climax. For me, it’s just what the doctor ordered and I’m hoping for a repeat prescription before too long.

I received an advance review copy from Canongate via NetGalley. A Corruption of Blood is book 17 of my 20 Books of Summer 2021.

In three words: Intricate, atmospheric, assured

Try something similar: The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

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Ambrose Parry Author PicAbout the Authors

Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with The Way of All Flesh, is based. The Way of All Flesh was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. (Photo/bio credit: Publisher author page)

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