Monday, 22 November 1999
Paul Doherty: The Demon Archer (1999)
Review number: 395
It is a pleasure to read this new Hugh Corbett novel. Paul Doherty, with a doctorate in medieval history, knows the early fourteenth century extremely well and, moreover, conveys the background convincingly and unobtrusively. Corbett is a good central character, and the mysteries he investigates usually interesting and complex enough to please any crime fiction aficionado.
This particular novel is set in Ashdown Forest, in Kent, then thickly wooded. ("Forest" in medieval English refers to land set aside for hunting, usually but not always covered with trees.) One of the foremost nobles of the kingdom, Henry Fitzalan Earl of Surrey is killed here by an assassin who has only made a minimal attempt to disguise the death as a hunting accident. Since he was about to lead an embassy to France to negotiate the treaty accompanying the marriage of Prince Edward (later Edward II) and Isabella daughter of Philip IV of France, his death could have important political consequences, but his private live could equally provide a motive for murdering him, as seduction was his chief hobby. In addition, he had just refused to pass on some of the family estate to his brother and heir to make him financially independent, a move not calculated to endear William to him.