cover image Stallions of Woodstock

Stallions of Woodstock

Edward Marston. Minotaur Books, $22.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20021-3

The sixth installment of Marston's solidly written Domesday series (The Serpents of Harbledown, etc.) is every bit as entertaining as its forerunners. Gervase Bret and Ralph Delchard, commissioners to King William the Conqueror, are sent to Oxford, England, to settle a land dispute and soon find themselves embroiled in a murder investigation. Three Norman lords, Wymarc, Milo Crispin and Bertrand Gamberell, along with a Saxon, bet against each other in a horse race that turns deadly when Gamberell's jockey is murdered. Oxford sheriff Robert d'Oilly brutally arrests a suspect, but Bret and Delchard are skeptical of his rush to justice and decide to unravel the complex situation. Further distress follows as Wymarc's sister, a former choir singer under the deceptive Chaplain Arnulf, mysteriously commits suicide. D'Oilly fumes and fusses over the upcoming visit of a prominent Norman bishop and Oxford's apparent disorder, while Arnulf moves in on his new protege and the murderer runs loose. Despite the seeming infallibility of Bret and Delchard, the mystery, as the others in this readable series, brings to life the turmoil of an England torn between Norman and Saxon, where the conquered's underlying resentment of the conquerors often bubbled over into murder. (Feb.)