cover image Wildcats of Exeter

Wildcats of Exeter

Edward Marston. Minotaur Books, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-25355-4

The eighth of Marston's Domesday books (The Hawks of Delamere, etc.) fails to meet the high standards established by his Edgar-nominated Elizabethan series. In the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, England is still struggling with difficult Norman-Saxon relations. Nobleman Ralph Delchard and legal expert Gervase Bret, along with other members of the Royal Commissioners appointed by King William, are once again sent out to hear and settle land and tax disputes, this time to Exeter in Devon. Upon their arrival they learn that Nicolas Picard, whose property dispute they had been scheduled to hear, has been killed by a wildcat, but with a telling wound that could have been inflicted only by a human. Meanwhile, the list of claimants to the property in question has grown to five. Could one of them be a murderer? Limited description and dialogue fail to create an authentic atmosphere. When Delchard's wife, Golde, openly discusses her feelings about the snub she received from the sheriff's wife, Delchard tells Golde she was the ""target for her anger,"" an analysis more of this century than the 11th. The presentation of the claims, the revelation of the facts, the deliberations and the commission's decision generate interest, but as a period mystery this is a disappointment. (Feb. 5)