While Mike Ripley may have been content to languish (with perfect justification) in his title as the ‘King of Comic Crime’ in the UK with his deliciously enjoyable series of Angel detective novels, aficionados of historical crime fiction are pleased by the fact that he is just as adept in this area, as the mediaeval mystery The Legend of Hereward proves. Hereward the Wake, as Ripley reminds us, was the last warrior (described here as ‘English’) to defy the Norman conquest and influenced his fanatically devoted followers quite as persuasively as Jeremy Corbyn does members of Momentum. His outlaw status is a given here, but, as Ripley asks, was he really a vicious murderer and nursery and arsonist? The answers to that question are entertainingly examined here, but the real pleasure of the book is the vivid and pungent evocation of atmosphere of Britain at the time of the conquests. Non-historians will not be troubled by Ripley’s filigrees on the known truth (such as it is); this is mesmerising stuff and an intriguing addition to the burgeoning current trend of thrillers set in mediaeval times.

The Legend of Hereward by Mike Ripley

Ostara Publishing £10.95 9781906288952

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