A Dreadful Penance is the third book in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries by Jason vail
Summary (from back of book)
November 1262 is an unlikely season for war. But war nonetheless is coming to the March, the wild borderland between England and Wales. Not the war that most fear between the supporters of the King and the rebellious barons uniting around Simon de Montfort, but with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the Welsh warlord who styles himself Prince of Wales and who has united the fractious tribes of his land against the English.
The English are uncertain, however, where and when the blow will fall. So, Sir Geoffrey Randall, coroner of Herefordshire, dispatches his deputy, the impoverished knight Stephen Attebrook, to the border town of Clun to make contact with a spy in order to learn Llewelyn’s plans.
At the same time, Randall directs Attebrook to investigate the murder of a monk found dead in his bed at the Augustine priory of St. George at Clun.
The assignment casts Attebrook into the middle of a desperate feud between the priory and the lord of Clun and reveals a forbidden love that can only result in suffering and death.
Although he could not help looking clownish – a little round man with his head wrapped in linen who could barely keep his place upon his mule – any fool was dangerous with a sword.
This is the first book I have read in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries and I loved it. I have added the other books to my TBR list, but this novel works well as a standalone. The author provides enough information on what has gone before to ensure the reader can, not only keep up with the storyline, but enjoy it also without feeling like they needed to have read the first two books before this one.
Stephen Attebrook is an interesting character. I like his fairly abrasive personality and the antagonistic camaraderie he shared with Gilbert Wistwode,a clerk also in the employ of Sir Geoffrey Randall.
I thought the story was a little slow to get going at first, but a couple of chapters in and the pace and the drama suddenly picked up. What followed was an entertaining, gripping read, that I struggled to put down. The historical detail was fascinating, with sufficient depth to bring the time and place to life. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt the ending was too abrupt.
I am eager to read more of this series, and would recommend this books to anyone who has an interest in the Marches during the medieval period and to those who enjoy historical fiction in general.