21 February 2014

Friday's Review: The King's Hounds by Martin Jensen.

This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review

Genre: Historical Mystery
Page Count: 272
List Price:  $14.95 Paperback
                 $9.99 Digital Edition
                 $4.99 Kindle
Publication Date:  October 29, 2013
Publisher: Amazon Crossing

My Rating:  3.5 of 5 stars

As a person who really enjoys both mysteries and historical fiction, historical mysteries are often fun reads for me.  The recent translation of Danish author Martin Jensen's book The King's Hounds was just that type of book.  The story is set in 1018, the time when the Danish King Cnut has conquered England and is busy trying to get all of the factions under his control to coalesce into a single unified country.  Unfortunately for him, a South Saxon who is known to be Cnut's enemy is found murdered.  Enter Winston, ex-monk and highly regarded Saxon illuminator, and Halfdan, a Danish ex-noble, exactly the combination  King Cnut needs in order to solve the crime without raising complaints of favoritism.
The story of Winston and Halfdan, and their quest to solve the murder of Oxfrid works on many levels.  Like all good mysteries of this type, we are presented with a dead body who in life had enough enemies to present us with a long list of possible suspects. In addition, the crime solvers are an unlikely pair of contrasting characters.  Not only do they represent opposite sides of the current political scene, thus giving the aura of objectivity, but they also represent very different styles of solving a puzzle.  While Winston's approach keys on observation and deduction, Halfdan is more outgoing and able to get people to talk to him.   Jensen's historical representation of the time is also spot on.  Through the inclusion of real historical figures, events and terms, and his accurate description of life in 1018 England, we get a glimpse of life during a time that is not widely covered in historical fiction. Add to all that the excellent translation from Danish which allows the story to flow seemlessly in English, and it all comes together as a definite win.

Although I would not put this story in the "earth shattering" category, I would recommend it to those of you who enjoy a good mystery , especially those that like their mystery with a bit of history included.  As for me, I am looking forward to reading The Oathbreaker, the second book of the series, and sincerely hope that there are plans to translate even more of them to English.  For one thing, I am anxious to see how the relationship between Winston and Halfdan develops as I think there is a lot of room for growth there.  

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