Sinful Folk (Omnibus 1–4) by Ned Hayes
Campanile Books (2014)
This is a depressing story based on truth and set in England in 1377. A woman has lost her son in a fire that also killed four other boys. A small group of villagers sets off on a journey in the middle of winter to bring the bodies to show the king in London. They hope for justice, as they blame the Jews for the murders.
The story is very interesting, and made more so by the fact that the woman has lived as a man and a mute for ten years in this village. It’s obviously a mystery. Why were the boys in the village weaver’s home that night? Who set the fire, and why? What other secrets do the villagers keep?
I enjoy historical novels and mysteries, but I’m not especially fond of this time period. It’s dark and sad, like this story. The trip is made by foot, of course, dragging the wagon with the bodies. This is the worst winter in memory and the villagers are starving. They start to question their motives and argue amongst themselves. They are set upon by bandits, knights, and animals. Can things get worse? Yep. One of the group is the one who set the fire.
I found the story slow and plodding, just like the trip. Some would say that this is a good thing; it brings the time period to life. However, did I want to sink into this mire? No, but I stuck with it—which tells me that it was compelling enough to want to find out how it ended, which was very satisfactorily. The writing was lovely, but the story was not.
Recommended for hardcore historical mystery/novel readers who don’t mind a story with a little misery.