‘The King’s Hounds’ is a murder mystery set in Oxford during the reign of King Cnut. An unlikely duo, Winston and Halfdan form a friendship that is still in its early stages when they find themselves assigned the job of investigating the murder and reporting their findings to the king, a task complicated by an abundance of suspects and plenty of obstructions along the way.
The reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of medieval England, culturally divided between those of Anglo-Saxon and Danish/Viking origins just as Cnut has come to the throne, which places the events of the story in the year of 1016. The resulting climate of distrust and resentment adds further difficulty and intrigue to the case: the king himself is not above suspicion in the death of a prominent Anglo-Saxon thane.
The characters are very well developed, and are characterised effectively by the narrator. The contrast between the conservative Winston and the rogueish Halfdan creates some entertaining moments, but also enables each of them to play to his strengths when challenged by the various situations and problems they encounter.
The story is interesting and entertaining, and quite well told. The dialogue is a little stilted at times and not quite consistent with the way people spoke during that period of history, but this may be accounted for by the fact that the book was translated from Danish into English.
The narration by Napoleon Ryan is noticeably slow, but before I was far into the book, I began to feel that this was something of an advantage, because it gave me time to take in all the detail of the story.
An enjoyable and interesting book, ‘The King’s Hounds’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.