1143, North Wales, the court of King Owain, ruler of Gwynedd. Owain’s daughter, Elen, is to be married to Anarawd, King of Deheubarth, the neighbouring kingdom. But as Meilyr, the court bard, and his family are travelling to the wedding, they come upon the remains of Anarawd’s party. Everyone lies dead – but Anarawd’s body is different. He has been killed at close quarters – stabbed by a small blade through the heart.
Gareth, a knight of the court of Owain, looks deeper into the murder, with the help of his one-time love Gwen, the daughter of Meilyr. While it seems that Danish mercenaries carried out the attack, the hunt is on for the person behind them. But when Gwen is kidnapped, it falls to Gareth to rescue her – while overcoming the slight problem of being the prime suspect in the murder…
The second in my Medieval Miscreants series of reviews, and our first detour from Medieval England. So how does this one fare?
This is all based on historical fact – although I know next to nothing about Medieval Wales – but the author’s note at the end details how much of the plot and the characters are based on reality.
I’m going to digress for a moment. In mysteries, there is one particular plot that I rarely enjoy. It’s the one where person X is suspected by everyone, even the sleuth, for the majority of the book. It has two endings which to me, rarely satisfy. Either X is guilty, in which case it seems that everyone has been twiddling their thumbs for most of the book before arresting him, or person Y is in fact the guilty party in which case everyone looks a bit dumb for not considering other suspects. Neither of these plots enthral me, as both involve a fair bit of going round in circles and usually gives me the impression of padding. It takes an exceptional book to employ this basic plot and still keep me engrossed.
Sorry to say, this book uses that plot and isn’t exceptional. It’s a perfectly fine read, but rather than being a mystery, it’s more of an adventure with a mild twist at the end – and I think the twist is unclued – I certainly didn’t spot anything, and the twist isn’t worked out by any member of the cast. The person involved simply owns up.
Historically as well… it does seem slightly odd that there’s no mention that neighbouring England is currently in a state of civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Mathilda – the so-called Anarchy. Part of the plot involves who could be behind the Danish mercenaries – even dismissing the English as being in a state of war might be expected. Maybe not…
Anyway, it’s a straightforward enough read, but I’d avoid it if you’re looking for a decent mystery.