Injustice in Norman England

Edward Marston is a prolific writer of easy to read historical crime novels. You can read about some other books of his I have read here. The Foxes of Warwick is part of a series set just after the Norman conquest and featuring two men appointed by the king to collect details of land ownership in the country for his Domesday Book. This is one of the later books but I haven’t read any of the earlier ones – it didn’t matter to my understanding of the story.

Ralph and Gervase travel to Warwick to adjudicate in a matter of land ownership. When they arrive they discover that one of the witnesses in the case has been murdered and they become convinced that the blacksmith who has been arrested for the crime is innocent and that there has been a miscarriage of justice. Together with Ralph’s wife they begin to investigate but they soon find that the local Lord is not happy with their interference.

The historical background makes this book an interesting read. The author shows the divisions between old and new landowners and the role of the church. He highlights how little real justice a poor man might receive – especially one who is not particularly popular or intelligent. He doesn’t hide the power that the local landowners had at the time and how there were few limits on how they treated their people. In the end lots of different crimes are uncovered including murder and deception.

This is not a very involved novel but the puzzle is interesting and the background detail enhances the enjoyment of the reader. It passes the time very nicely and I wasn’t always brought up short by obvious historical inaccuracies. A perfectly satisfactory crime novel.

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