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Hostage to Fortune

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Author Sarah Hawkswood
Rights World
ISBN 9780749024789
Pages 288
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January, 1144. Hugh Bradecote does not want his betrothed heading off on pilgrimage to the shrine of St Edgyth at Polesworth, but the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy and his entourage of monks seem Heaven-sent as escorts, right up until they are captured by a renegade who wants his forger out of the lord sheriff’s cells; a renegade who loathes the Benedictines, and kills for pleasure.


Against a backdrop of a hard winter and even a frozen River Severn, Bradecote and Catchpoll are struggling to rescue the clerics, and Christina, before a psychopath does his worst, the lord sheriff loses patience, and Bradecote cracks under the pressure.

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  1. David Morley

    It is midwinter 1143 and Hugh Bradecote, undersheriff of Worcestershire, has brought his soon to be wife, the widow Christina Fitzpayne, to his manor on the feast of St. Stephen only for William de Beauchamp, lord Sherriff of Worcestershire, to call him back to Worcester. De Beauchamp has trouble brewing. Poor quality counterfeit coins are in circulation and the merchants and artisans in the city are unhappy. The moneyer, Osbern, whose dies have been copied, has been arrested and his journeyman has been found dead, floating in the River Severn. Bradecote and his sergeant, Catchpoll, have been given the task of hunting down the forgers.

    Hugh Bradecote's task becomes considerably more difficult though when Christina feels compelled to make a pilgrimage, to the shrine of St Eadgyth, at Polesworth, before her marriage. Hugh tries to dissuade her but, despite his opposition, she arranges to accompany Father Samson, an envoy of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, when he and his entourage of monks leave the next morning. Hugh's misgivings are proved justified when a group of bandits, led by a cruel and ruthless outlaw, attack Father Samson's party and takes them hostage to force the release of Osbern the moneyer.

    For Bradecote and Catchpoll there follows a frantic hunt for the hostages across the frozen countryside around Worcester. The author admirably creates a sense of how grim it is for the hostages to be dragged across the snow covered tracks, woods and fields in the worst of winter weather knowing that shelter must be found by the end of the day if they are to survive the night. While Bradecote and Catchpoll and their men-at-arms are in cold pursuit, as it were, de Beauchamp and Catchpoll's prot'g', Walkelin, set about appeasing his burgesses and merchants by confiscating the counterfeiter's dies and silver which are hidden in the city.

    While there can be little doubt as to the ultimate fate of the cruel, and increasingly unstable, leader of the band of outlaws this novel engages the reader well as it moves inexorably to its conclusion. The main characters are well defined and seen to be sympathetic even where they display attitudes more like those, we imagine were prevalent in the twelfth century. The reader is shown how hard life must have been for ordinary folk at that time, especially in the middle of a harsh winter when they must rely on stored food and supplies to survive. Though these were brutal times, the author also shows us how there could still be love, humour and compassion in the lives of people at that time.

    This is the fourth book in the Bradecote and Catchpoll series of novels and if this, intricately plotted and enjoyable novel is anything to go by the others in the series are well worth seeking out.

    I would like to express my thanks to Net Galley and Allison and Busby for making a free download of this book available to me.

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