No Dark Place
Mysteries provide a pleasant change of pace for me, and this one was refreshing in setting, plot and characterizations. The book has enough medieval flavor to demonstrate the author’s research, but does not overwhelm the story.
Hugh Corbaille was orphaned at the age of seven and taken in by the Sheriff of Lincoln, Ralf Corbaille, and his wife, Adela. They are the only parents Hugh has ever known, since he has lost all of his early memories. As the book opens, Ralf has just been killed, and Hugh is devastated. Since Adela died previously, Hugh is now alone, and devastated. When a chance encounter with Nigel Haslin, vassel to the Earl of Wiltshire, reveals the information that Nigel believes Hugh to be the kidnapped son of the previous earl, Hugh is not interested at first. Months later, Hugh decides that pursuing the matter might help occupy his time and his mind.
The story is set against the Civil War involving Stephen and Matilda. The author does an excellent job demonstrating how divided the barons and families of England were at this period. Nigel has sworn for Stephen, but as Hugh delves deeper into his family history, he meets his maternal uncle Simon, who has sworn for Matilda. Hugh manages to deftly maneuver the political climate without declaring himself for either side. As the story progresses, his main focus is not on the war, but on who killed his true father. Guy, Hugh’s paternal uncle and the new earl, is a definitely a suspect. As with any good mystery, however, there are many suspects, and the true villain is not readily revealed.
While trying to unlock the secrets surrounding his father’s death, Hugh forms an instant bond with Nigel’s daughter, Cristen. Their bond deepens into love over the course of the book, and it is only Cristen that has no ulterior motives for befriending Hugh. Hugh is a strong and interesting character, who suffers from severe migraines. He also agonizes over coming face to face with his real mother, since he truly loved Adela and considered her his mother.
At the beginning of the book, it was somewhat difficult to keep all the barons and their loyalties straight, but as the book progressed, I had no further difficulties. I enjoyed Hugh’s journey through his family secrets, and can recommend this if you are a mystery lover, or if you are merely looking for a change of pace. Even better, the author has just released another book involving Hugh in hardcover, The Poisoned Serpent. I can’t wait to read it!