The Foxes of Warwick (Domesday Books, Vol. 9)

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9780312280888: The Foxes of Warwick (Domesday Books, Vol. 9)
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Henry Beaumont keeps a renowned pack of foxhounds: quick, brave and ruthless at the kill. Yet one December hunt, the dogs uncover more than a fox in the woodlands-brushing aside dead leaves, Beaumont finds the crushed body of Martin Reynard, a former member of his own household. Enraged, Henry swears to find the killer, though he is not trained in investigation. Before long his hot head and rudimentary skills lead him to arrest a man of questionable guilt.

Luckily, Ralph Delchard and Gervase Bret are in the area to settle a land dispute and are available to lend their expertise. Upon close consideration of the circumstances leading up to the grisly murder, the two Domesday Commissioners begin a full-scale investigation designed to bring the true murderer to justice, whoever he may be. Full of the impeccable historical detail for which Edward Marston is known, The Foxes of Warwick is a gripping mystery sure to fascinate both longtime fans and readers new to the Domesday series.

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About the Author:

Edward Marston is the author of eight previous novels in the Domesday series. He has also written an Edgar Award nominated series set in the theaters of Elizabethan England. He lives in the United Kingdom.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Foxes of Warwick
Chapter OneFrom the moment they set out from Winchester, he'd been in a rebellious mood. Two days in the saddle did not improve Ralph Delchard's temper nor dispel his sense of persecution. On their third departure at dawn, he voiced his displeasure once more to Gervase Bret, who rode alongside him, body wrapped up against the biting cold and mind still trying to bring itself fully awake.'I am too old for this!' moaned Ralph.'Age brings wisdom.''If I had any wisdom, Gervase, I would have found a way to wriggle out of this assignment. I am too old and too tired to go riding across three counties in wintertime. Surely I have earned a rest by now? I should be sitting at home beside a roaring fire, enjoying the fruits of my hard work, not having my arse frozen off in deepest Warwickshire.''Oxfordshire.''Have we not crossed the border yet?''No, Ralph. We have to get beyond Banbury first.''Well, wherever we are, it is miserably cold. My blood has congealed, my body is numb, my pizzle is an icicle of despair.' He gave an elaborate shiver. 'Why is the King putting me through this ordeal?''Because of your experience.''Experience?''Yes,' said Gervase. 'You have proved your worth time and again. That is why the King sought you out. Whom is he to trust as a royal commissioner? Some untried newcomer who proceeds by trial and error, or a veteran like RalphDelchard with immense experience?''You are starting to sound like William himself.''It is an honour to be taken into royal service.''There is no honour in going abroad in this foul weather. It is a punishment inflicted upon us by a malign king. Wait until we are caught in a blizzard, as assuredly we will be sooner or later,' he said, scanning the thick clouds with a wary eye. 'Tell me then that it is an honour. You should be as angry as I am, Gervase. We are both victims of the royal whim here. How can you remain so calm about it?''I call my philosophy to my aid.''And what does that do?''Provide an inner warmth.''I prefer to find that in the marital bed.'Gervase suppressed a sigh. He was as reluctant as his friend to set out once more from Winchester but he saw no virtue in protest. A royal command had to be obeyed even if it meant leaving a young wife at home with only fond memories of their fleeting connubial bliss to sustain her through his absence. Ralph might complain but his own spouse, Golde, was riding loyally behind him and would be able to offer comfort and conversation along the way. Gervase had no such solace. The burden of separation was heavy. He was less concerned for himself, however, than he was for his beloved Alys, shorn of her husband for the first time and wondering where he might be and what dangers he might encounter.Ralph glanced across at him and seemed to read his thoughts.'Are you missing Alys?''Painfully.''Why did you not bring her with us, Gervase?''There was no question of that.''She would have refused to come?''I was not prepared to ask her,' said Gervase. 'Apart from the fact that she does not have a robust constitution and would be taxed by the rigours of the journey, I had to consider my own position. Much as I love her, I have to confess that Alys would have been a distraction.''Rightly so.''I do not follow.''We all need a diversion from the boredom of our work.''That is the difference between us, Ralph. I do not find it boring. It is endlessly fascinating to me. We may seem only to be learning who owns what in which county of the realm but we are, in fact, engaged in a much more important enterprise.''What is that?''Helping to write the History of England.''And freezing our balls off in the process.''In years to come, scholars will place great value on our findings. That is why I take our work so seriously and why I could not let even my wife distract me from it. Alys will be there when this is all over.''So meanwhile you sleep in an empty bed.''We both do.''You take self-denial to cruel extremes.''Yours is one way, mine is another.'Ralph tossed an affectionate smile over his shoulder at his wife.'I think I made the better choice.''For you, yes; for me, no.''You lawyers will quibble.''It's a crucial distinction.''I disagree but I'm far too cold to argue.'Ralph gave another shiver then nudged his horse into a gentle canter. Gervase and the rest of the cavalcade followed his example and dozens of hoofs clacked on the hard surface of the road. There were seventeen of them in all. Ralph and Gervase were at the head of the procession, with Golde and Archdeacon Theobald immediately behind them. A dozen men-at-arms from Ralph's own retinue came next, riding in pairs and offering vital protection for the travellers, those at the rear pulling sumpter horses on lead reins. Last of all came the strange figure of Brother Benedict, a stout monk of uncertain age with a round, red face and a silver tonsure which looked more like a rim of frost than human hair. Benedict was at oncea member of the group yet detached from it, a scribe to the commissioners and a lone spirit, sitting astride a bay mare as if riding into some personal Jerusalem, eyes uplifted to heaven and hood thrown back so that his head was exposed to the wind and he could savour the full force of its venom.Brother Simon was their customary scribe and Canon Hubert of Winchester their usual colleague but both men were indisposed, obliging Ralph and Gervase to accept deputies. Benedict, who bore the name of the founder of his monastic Order like a battle standard, replaced Simon but the more ample presence of Hubert required two substitutes. Theobald, Archdeacon of Hereford, was one of them, a tall, slim, dignified man in his fifties, already known and respected by the commissioners as a result of their earlier visit to the city, an assignment on which even Ralph looked back with pleasure since it was in Hereford that he first met Golde. His wife was delighted to befriend someone from her home town and, since the archdeacon had been visiting Winchester, she was able to stave off the tedium of travel by talking at leisure with him on their way north.The other commissioner was due to meet them at Banbury.'What do we know of this Philippe Trouville?' asked Ralph.'Little enough,' said Gervase. 'Beyond the fact that he fought bravely beside the King in many battles.''That speaks well for him. I did as much myself.''The lord Philippe has substantial holdings in Suffolk, Essex and Northamptonshire. I heard a rumour that he looks to be sheriff in one of those counties before too long.''An ambitious man, then. That can be good or bad.''In what way?''It depends on his motives, Gervase.''The King obviously thinks highly of him.''Then we must accept him on that basis and welcome him to the commission. It will be good to have another soldier sitting alongside us. Canon Hubert has his virtues but that cloying Christianity of his makes me want to puke at times.''Hubert is a devout man.''That is what I have against him.''Archdeacon Theobald is cut from the same cloth.''By a much more skilful tailor.'They shared a laugh. 'I like this Theobald. We have something in common: a shared dread of that mad Welshman, Idwal, who plagued us first in Hereford and then again in Chester. Theobald told me that he was never so glad to bid adieu to anyone as to that truculent Celt. Yes,' he added with a smile, 'Theobald and I will get along, I know it. He is a valuable addition.' His smile gave way to a scowl. 'I cannot say that of our crack-brained scribe.''Brother Benedict?''He talks to himself, Gervase.''He is only praying aloud.''In the middle of a meal?''The spirit moves him when it will.''Well, I wish that it would move him out of my way. Benedict and I can never be happy bedfellows. He is far too holy and I am far too sinful. The worst of it is that I am unable to shock him. Brother Simon is much more easily outraged. It was a joy to goad him.''You were very unkind to Simon.''He invited unkindness.''Not to that degree,' said Gervase. 'But you may have met your match in Brother Benedict. He is here to exact retribution.''If he survives the journey.''What do you mean?'Ralph jerked a thumb over his shoulder. 'Look at the man. Baring his head in this weather. Inviting the wind to scour that empty skull of his. I swear that the fellow would ride naked if there were not a lady present. Benedict actually courts pain. He relishes suffering.''He believes that it will enhance the soul.''What kind of lunacy is that?'Gervase smiled. 'This may not be the place for a theological discussion.''Are you saying that you agree with that nonsense?''No, Ralph,' replied the other tactfully. 'I am simply saying that Banbury is less than a mile away and - God willing - ournew colleague will be waiting there for us.''Let us see what Philippe Trouville makes of this Benedict.''I fear that he will be as intolerant as you.''Why?''Soldiers never understand the impulse to take the cowl.''Who but a fool would choose to be an eunuch?''I rest my case.'They came around a bend in the road and, as the trees thinned out on their left, got their first glimpse of Banbury. Situated on a crossroads, it was a thriving village which fanned out from the church at its centre. Three mills harnessed the power of th...

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