Friday, January 30, 2009

No Dark Place - Joan Wolf

In the turbulent realm of Norman England, a young man discovers that his identity is the link to an incredible mystery….

Bereft at the loss of his adoptive father, the Sheriff of Lincoln, Hugh Corbaille is unprepared for a further shock from a visiting knight. Hugh may actually be the sold child of the Earl of Wiltshire, mysteriously abducted thirteen years before onthe day the nobleman was murdered. With no memory of his early years, Hugh begins to believe he may be the missing heir and sets off to find his past.

The journey, however, is far from easy - or safe. Finding himself caught in a web of death and intrigue, and surrounded by a court of scheming strangers, Hugh must turn to the mother he has never known and a supportive young woman to piece together the truth. A cold-blooded killer stands between Hugh and the answers he seeks, answers that may prove his birth - and his death.

Wolf was a familiar name to me as a writer of historical romance and traditional regencies. I was quite surprised when I discovered that she had also written two medieval mysteries and after reading them I can only say that it is a pity that she did not write more.

Set in 12th century England, No Dark Place is the story of Hugh Corbaille and the mysteries that surround him. When the story opens Hugh, the adopted son of the Sheriff of Lincoln has just lost his father and is “recognized” by a visiting man, Nigel Haslin, as the possible son of the Earl of Wiltshire who has disappeared has a child.

The unusually controlled Hugh is still having trouble dealing with his grief and at first refuses to acknowledge that possibility but eventually he decides to investigate as he is both feeling the need to escape the memories of his dead parents and the desire to know if he is really Hugh de Leon. What is known is that fourteen years earlier Roger de Leon, the powerful Earl of Wiltshire, was murdered in his chapel and his young son disappeared never to be seen again. Hugh was found starving and cold in the streets of Lincoln and has no memory of what happened before he joined the Corbaille household.

In Nigel Haslin’s household Hugh meets his daughter Cristen, a sixteen year old girl, who is already a known herbalist and with whom he feels instantly at ease. Hugh and Cristen’s relationship will slowly develop throughout the book, never overshadowing the mystery but showing us a new side to Hugh who seems very much in control of himself except when he is with Cristen.

Nigel’s plan is to “show” Hugh to his uncle and see what comes of it. They all meet in a tournament and Hugh’s physical appearance immediately calls the attention of several people. Besides the mystery of who Hugh really is there’s also the mystery of who killed Roger de Leon and some believe his brother and successor maybe have been behind it. To his natural desire to know who he is Hugh adds something of political strategy, the Earl of Wiltshire is a powerful ally of king Stephen and Hugh knows that if sworn to Mathilda’s side he would be immediately recognised by her and the rightful heir of the earldom.

It was interesting to have this outlook of the time’s political intrigues but what really made the book for me where the characters and the mystery surrounding them. Not only Hugh and Cristen but the whole set of secondary characters make this a really interesting story.

Grade: 4.5/5


  1. I bought this book ages ago and recently found it in a bin of paperbacks that I was going through. So glad to see someone who has read it and can recommend it. It does look very good!

  2. Wonderful review Ana. I don't always care for mysteries but this one sound s really good. I added it to my TBR.