The Peacock’s Cry by Paul Doherty

Peacock's CryIn 1304, Sir Hugh Corbett walked away from his post as Keeper of the Secret Seal, having had enough of Edward I’s machinations. Now, seven years later, and Edward’s son is on the throne, the dangerous Edward II. His games are threatening to plunge England into civil war and Sir Hugh is about to be drawn back into a life of danger.

In Godstow, Sir Hugh’s friend and associate Ranulph-atte-Newgate stands accused of the murder of a nun. Sent there to investigate one novice’s disappearance, he befriended a second novice, only for her to be found dead in the centre of a near-unnavigable maze, shot in the head by Ranulph’s own crossbow. In order to save his friend, Sir Hugh will have to resume his role as the King’s investigator – and track down a ruthless killer whose work may well not be over…

Hurrah! Sir Hugh Corbett is back. After six years away, Sir Hugh is going to return in novel form in Dark Serpent next month (and much more on that when it comes out!) but to set the scene and whet our tastebuds, Paul has written and released this e-novella.

Let’s address that bit first – a novella. Amazon claims it’s 62 pages long (a pointless measure on an ebook) but it didn’t feel like it when I was reading it. For 99p, you get an involving,  complex mystery, with a number of suspects and a satisfying solution, an insight into Sir Hugh’s thinking at returning to his role, along with flashes of a ruthless streak when it comes to punishing the guilty – there’s one line towards the end of the book that sent a chill down my spine.

This felt like a short novel and it’s a cracking read. Yes, I say that about nearly every Paul Doherty tale that I read, but there’s a good reason for that. If you want an introduction to his work, you could do a lot worse than try this out – for 99p, what could go wrong? Apart from generating the need to read the 100-plus novels that he’s written of course. I fell victim to that, thanks to Sergio, but if you enjoy this one, then there are some suggestions as to where to start here.

As ever, the history leaps off the page. Fascinating historical fact of the day: As pilgrimages abroad became more difficult (due to, for example, war), sites in England were elevated in status – hence the maze, which the penitent would be expected to crawl to the centre of as his pilgrimage.

One thing that I’m curious about – this book is set in 1311, between books 2 and 3 of the short Mathilde of Westminster series, which also features Edward II. I wonder – are we going to get an appearance of Mathilde in the upcoming novel?

There are more Corbett and Athelstan novels on the way, but this is a great way of passing the time until they get here. Obviously, this is Highly Recommended.


  1. Is this an extract from the next novel or completely different? I read online somewhere it was an extract.
    I’ve read the last three Corbett novels by the way thanks in part to your blog.


  2. Another one of your converts here, Doc. This novella sounds really great, but a question about one of Doherty’s other series: is that rumored eighth Judge Amerotke mystery still in the works? It was mentioned years ago, but the book never materialized.


    • Paul hasn’t mentioned it for a long time – I’d guess that his publishers want commitments to ongoing series and these at the moment are Corbett and Athelstan which works for me.

      I’m going to look into doing an interview with Paul in the future if he has the time (or inclination) and I’ll try and remember to ask.


  3. One of the boons of having an e-book reader. I still refuse to give in and buy one. Part of the reluctance: I’m afraid of how many digital books I might end up buying and never reading! Ah well…

    Good luck with the interview. He canceled two months prior to his appearance as “Guest of Honor” when Bouchercon was held in Albany, NY a few years ago. Not sure of the reason (even if Albany is hardly a place *anyone* would want to visit) but I suspect he’s not a big one on public appearances.


    • I know that Paul is amazingly busy, given that he’s the headmaster of a London school as well as a full-time writer – it wouldn’t take much for his schedule to get overfull. Fingers crossed…


    • ”Part of the reluctance: I’m afraid of how many digital books I might end up buying and never reading! ”
      Well, at least they won’t turn your bedroom into a bookstore ! 🙂


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