The King’s Writ by Paul Doherty

The Tower of London, 1311, and Sir Hugh Corbett is there to supervise a tournament – men will joust for the Lords Mortimer and Despenser to see who has the right to inherit a lucrative stretch of land on the Welsh border, the valley of Eden. Both lords were promised the land by Edward I before he died – they have the writ, with the King’s own seal to prove it – and now it comes down to the tournament, or the Judicium Dei, the Judgment of God. But matters are complicated when a third party appears, also with a writ. And not just because it’s really hard to organise a three-way joust…

Soon, one of Mortimer’s men is found at the bottom of a well, and another man vanishes from inside his locked chamber, later to be found dead as well. Sir Hugh has to tread carefully to find a killer amongst a group of people who history tells us are hardly innocents…

As he did last year when The Peacock’s Cry presaged Dark Serpent, Paul Doherty, who I may just have mentioned once or twice on the blog before, has released this novella before The Devil’s Wolf appears at the end of the month – stay tuned for that one, hopefully. I think novella is the right word, rather than short story – Amazon claims it’s 71 pages long but as with The Peacock’s Cry, it didn’t seem particularly short.

Obviously I can’t say much about it, due to short length makes it even easier to surreptitiously spoil it, but it’s got more plot jammed into it than many novels that I’ve read recently. The impossibility is well done and I missed the murderer, which is always nice. But it’s not just plot – the characters and the historical detail permeate the text. Little snippets of historical fact that raise the tale to a different level than most other authors of the genre – did you know, for example, that if a pig gored a child, then the pig would be hanged?

Anyway, if you’ve been sitting there reading the blog over the years and have been thinking – “he keeps banging on about Paul Doherty – how can I see if he’s right without reading a whole book?” – well, this is for you. Highly Recommended – bring on The Devil’s Wolf!

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