The 1066 from Normandy is the sixteenth book in The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage by Hugh of Warwick.
Quick Review (read on for full review)
An engaging and entertaining medieval murder mystery, with a cast of wonderful characters and an interesting setting. A thoroughly enjoyable read. 4 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
Death and taxes… with extra death.
Yet more medieval detective-sort-of-thing from the best selling author…
Brother Hermitage, the King’s most medieval investigator, is about to discover the true meaning of the Norman Conquest; money.
It’s all very well Saxons fighting William on the battlefield and trying to kill him, but evading his taxes is simply beyond the pale. Something must be done about it. And who better to do something about things than his own investigator?
The first problem is that the King’s Investigator doesn’t understand what it is. But then not understanding things has never held him back in the past.
If tax evasion is a bad thing – which William assures him it is – then the people who do it are positively revolting. Hermitage has dealt with deceit, dishonesty and deception in the past, but he’s never met people who have made it their life’s work.
Needless to say, Wat and Cwen the weavers are dragged into this, quite literally, and Wat seems to know rather too much about dodging tax.
And then, of course, the bodies start piling up. Death and taxes, eh? Who’d have thought…
There were so many passages I could have quoted from this book, most of them by Cwen, but I thought this universal truth seems very relevant in today’s world:
“Rich people do tend to behave worse about their money than people who haven’t got any,” Cwen agreed.
(From The 1066 from Normandy by Howard of Warwick, pager 222)
The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage have been on my “To read / To buy” list for ages, so when I stumbled across this one in a shop I couldn’t resist, even though it is the sixteenth book in the series. Now, I don’t usually start a series part way through, but my usual reservations about doing so were unfounded. I could follow along perfectly well, and am looking forward to reading many more volumes in this series.
I loved the characters. Brother Hermitage is hilarious and Wat the Weaver and Cwen are perfect sidekicks. Cwen, in fact, was my favourite. Together, these three characters make for an engaging, entertaining story, and their camaraderie is just perfect for a cosy mystery series. Le Pedvin was sinisterly scary as the right-hand man of King William (he also happens to think Brother Hermitage is an idiot!) and as for the conspirators the trio meet along the way, they are devious and deceitful and of course, cannot possibly be trusted.
I loved the setting. Exploring the Midlands of a thousand years ago really highlights the change in the landscape compared to the Midlands of today. What was green and forested then (except for some mines and a few hovels) is now heavily urbanised and built upon. I also loved how Chesterfield was such a disappointment to the travelling group when they arrived there, having expected at least a village where they could stay, rather than a hovel close by to some old Roman ruins of a fort.
I loved the story. Taxes are of course, boring and complicated, but when combined with a plot to withhold them from the king, they can also become deadly. I thought it wonderful how Brother Hermitage, as the King’s Investigator, is given a mission to uncover this plot when he simply doesn’t understand all this talk of tax. It baffles him and he can’t understand why anyone would get involved in it. Luckily for him, Wat and Cwen seemed to have a perfect understanding of tax-dodging, which although helpful to Brother Hermitage, also alarms him a great deal!
All-in-all, I loved this book and will be returning to read more from the series in the future. I recommend this to anyone who’s interested in reading a light-hearted murder mystery set in the years after the Norman conquest.