cover image The Wolves of Savernake

The Wolves of Savernake

Edward Marston. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (242pp) ISBN 978-0-312-09942-8

Marston, whose previous mystery series features an Elizabethan theatrical troop, launches a medieval series with a servicably plotted tale set in 11th-century England after the Norman Conquest. Two of William the Conquerer's officials ride through Savernake Forest near Stonehenge with the aim of assessing the charter and holdings of Bedwyn Abbey for taxation. Tough Norman horseman Ralph Delchard, who fought at Hastings, is accompanied by young Chancery clerk Gervase Bret. In the woods, they find the corpse of the disliked miller Alric, his throat apparently torn out by a wolf. While four-footed predators are hunted in vain, a frenzied posse threatens to hack down an aged healer, Emma, the Witch of Crofton, and her dog. After a second identical murder, the sleuths are aided by the miller's widow and a beautiful young townswoman in whom Gervase takes an interest, spurred on by Ralph's seduction of a burger's wife. The wily monks of Bedwyn hamper an inquiry that might link the grisly deaths to their suspect charter. Period details and colorful venues, e.g., a subterranean mint run by a dwarf, help to make up for Marton's stodgy characterization. (Sept.)