For fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series.
What is the Bradecote and Catchpoll series about?
Coming from British author Sarah Hawkswood, The Bradecote and Catchpoll series takes us back in medieval times for some murder mysteries.
Set in Worcestershire during the Anarchy of King Stephen’s reign, the series follows the investigations of Hugh Bradecote, a vassal lord of the Sheriff, William de Beauchamp, and the Sheriff’s Serjeant, the wily Catchpoll.
Catchpoll knows nearly all the low life of Worcester, and works on the principle that outside of thefts for survival and crimes of passion, criminals are mean bastards, and the way to keep crime under control is to prove you are a meaner bastard than they are. He is observant, can think clearly, and is, above all, pragmatic.
Bradecote and Catchpoll Books in Order:
Every book in the Bradecote and Catchpoll series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- The Lord Bishop’s Clerk – June 1143: the Lord Bishop of Winchester’s Clerk is bludgeoned to death in Pershore Abbey, and laid before the altar in the attitude of a penitent. Everyone who had contact with him had reason to dislike him, but who had reason to kill him? The Sheriff of Worcestershire’s thief taker, the wily Serjeant Catchpoll, and his new and unwanted superior, Acting Under-Sheriff Hugh Bradecote, have to find the answer when nobody wants the murderer apprehended-until the next death.
- Ordeal by Fire – September 1143. Serjeant Catchpoll hopes a fire at a Worcester silversmith’s is just an accident, but when a charred corpse is discovered following a second fire, he has no choice but to call in the undersheriff. Hugh Bradecote may be new to the job compared to his wily colleague, but his analytical eye is soon hard at work.
- Marked to Die – October 1143. His task dispatched, a mysterious archer melts back into the forest leaving a pile of corpses in his wake. The lord Sheriff of Worcester cannot ignore such a brazen attack on the salt road from Wich, nor the death of a nobleman in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll are dispatched to hunt an elusive killer and his gang, and put a stop to the mounting attacks.
- Hostage to Fortune – January 1144. Hugh Bradecote does not want his betrothed heading off on pilgrimage to the shrine of St Edgyth at Polesworth, but the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy and his entourage of monks seem Heaven sent as escorts, right up until they are captured by a renegade who wants his forger out of the lord sheriff’s cells; a renegade who loathes the Benedictines, and kills for pleasure.
- Vale of Tears – April 1144. A body is found floating in Fladbury mill leat, a man in green who has been stabbed but not robbed. The lord sheriff’s trio discover him to be an Evesham horse dealer, who has a beautiful young wife who ‘strays’. Did the wife or one of her lovers get rid of him? What is the connection with the lord of Harvington, who wed the man’s sister, and how did that lady meet her death? What connection is there with the defrocked monk who worked on some leases for the lord and was hanged for theft, and where is the horse dealers’ horse? The trio have to work seamlessly together to unravel the thread that links seemingly disparate deaths before even more people die, and in the process keep Walkelin from the noose.
- Faithful Unto Death – June 1144. When the naked corpse of an unknown man is discovered and the Prince of Powys’s messenger fails to reach Earl Robert of Gloucester, Bradecote, Catchpoll and Walkelin head to Wales to confirm his identity, and piece together evidence that the dead man deserved a noose rather than a dagger. Retracing his steps leads them to a manor with a sarcastic lord, a neglected wife, a bitter mother and a fevered brother, all amidst folk who do not want the truth uncovered. The lord sheriff’s men have to unravel a knot where the law and justice seem to be in opposition.
- River of Sins – July 1144. Ricolde, ‘the finest whore in Worcester’, is found butchered on an island a few miles up the River Severn. How did she get there, who killed her, and why? Uncovering details of her life and her past reveal a woman with hidden depths and hidden miseries which are fundamental to the answers, but time has cast a thick veil over the killer’s identity. The lord Sheriff’s men have a trail that went cold over two decades ago, and evidence that contradicts itself. In a place Catchpoll knows inside out, he finds things new even to him, and then the case becomes personal.
- Blood Runs Thicker – August 1144. Osbern de Lench is known far and wide as a hard master, whose temper is perpetually frayed. After riding to survey his land and the incoming harvest from the top of the nearby hill, his horse returns to the hall riderless and the lifeless body of the lord is found soon after.Was it the work of thieves, or something closer to home? With an heir who is cast in the same hot-tempered mould, sworn enemies for neighbours, and something amiss in the relationship between Osbern and his wife, undersheriff Hugh Bradecote, the wily Serjeant Catchpoll and apprentice Walkelin have suspects aplenty.
- Wolf at the Door – 1144. The body of Durand Wuduweard, the unpopular keeper of the King’s Forest of Feckenham, is discovered beside his hearth, his corpse rendered barely identifiable by sharp teeth. Hushed whispers of a man-wolf spread swiftly and Sheriff William de Beauchamp’s men, Bradecote and Catchpoll, have to find out who killed Durand and why, amidst superstitious villagers, raids upon manors and further grim deaths. Who commands the wolf, and where will its fangs strike next?
- A Taste for Killing – January, 1145. Godfrey Bowyer, the best but least likable bow maker in Worcester, dies an agonizing death by poisoning. Although similarly struck down after the same meal, his wife, Blanche, survives. The number of people who could have administered the poison should mean a very short investigation for the Sheriff’s men, Hugh Bradecote, Serjeant Catchpoll, and Underserjeant Walkelin, but perhaps someone 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 may have had to endure Godfrey’s attention? Could it even be Blanche herself?
- Too Good to Hang – April, 1145. Thorgar the Ploughman is found by the bloodied body of Father Edmund, a village priest in Ripple, and is summarily hanged for being caught in the act, despite his pleas of innocence.When his sister goes to Worcester to seek justice for Thorgar, the lord Sheriff sends Hugh Bradecote, with Serjeant Catchpoll and Underserjeant Walkelin, to discover the truth. They soon expose strong motives for placing the blame on the ploughman’s shoulders, some unpleasant secrets festering among the villagers, as well as the whisper of a treasure long lost and now rediscovered.The shadow the noose casts is a long one, but the Sherrif’s men will need to plumb the darkness to uncover the true killer.
What should you read if you like the Bradecote and Catchpoll series?
If you like the Bradecote and Catchpoll series by Sarah Hawkswood, you may be interested in the Jack Blackjack series by Michael Jecks, the Brother Athelstan books by Paul Doherty, or the Owen Archer series by Candace Robb.