The Outlaws by Jason Vail
After four murder mysteries centered around Stephen Attebrook, the author (Jason Vail) steps back one hundred years to what is presumably the lives of Stephen’s great-grandparents. The murders have gone (well, there’s a couple, but not in the mystery sense) and we have a book at least twice as long as the predecessors which is more historical fiction than murder mystery. It reminded me of Ken Follett’s ‘Kingsbridge’ series – the story being a narration of a family in a period of English history. There was a nod to the surprising Hollywood hit – ‘A Knight’s Tale’ – in the light-hearted jousting, fighting, and general vagabond-ing that our hero – Robert Attebrook, indulges in as he climbs the difficult social ladder of twelfth century England. Lastly, the novel made me reminisce about Bernard Cornwell’s “Grail Quest” series, specifically, ‘Harlequin’.
All of which is to say Mr Vail is in good company, if not as good as these proven authors/fables. The key point is that since Vail penned his opener – ‘The Wayward Apprentice’ – each novel has expanded in scope, plot, narration; each has become more believable, has better historical accuracy, is more gripping (we like these people we are reading about).
When I commenced reading I was expecting a new Stephen Attebrook mystery, so I am pleasantly surprised to find that it is not; rather we get a history of the Attebrook family, akin to Wilbur Smith when he builds his African family dynasty epics. What remained was to find out if the taut narrative of a whodunit could be replaced by a longer saga. The result? A more than passable effort which ensures this reviewer both continues to recommend Jason Vail and look out for his next work.
The story is all about the rise of one Robert Attebrook, from common serf, to hunted ‘murderer’, to squire in France in the various armies of Henry the Younger, the Flemish, the English of Henry II, to stalwart defender of honour and family, eventually to being a lord over his own holdings. At various points he earns his way through a mixture of daring, bravery, and good sense, avoiding vicissitudes in his refusal to be spanselled by his class. Parallel to this is the story of Giselle, the beautiful daughter of Lord William, whose lands Earl Roger desires most ardently. The means to this is through the marriage of Giselle to the bastard Eustace – a nasty piece of work who commits murder and mayhem with his henchmen as he sees fit. Of course, the rise of Robert means he meets Giselle as she falls from social standing. Love and the formation of a formidable team is the inevitable result as they struggle against strife, politics, the class system, wars, nefarious acts, and hatred to reach a position where justice wins through. Through sedulousness, persistence, and dedication both our heroes and we, as readers, reach a conclusion that is satisfying, but remains open for the family saga to continue.
What I like about Vail is is his plain prose, his focus on action of character rather than scene. He is neither recondite nor abstruse, his prose is pellucid and never divagates. We cheer with Robert, scowl at Le Bec and Eustace, tut at scheming servants, groan at building fires, cheer at the various successes and victories so hard earned.
I must applaud Vail. He started as an e-author and has matured rather rapidly into a writer with a gift for storytelling. It’ll be interesting if he sticks with historical fiction of the Attebrooks or returns to ‘present-day’ and has Stephen indulge in another murder mystery. Either way, this reviewer has no doubt it will be good.
This The Outlaws book review was written by travelswithacanadian
All reviews for: A Stephen Attebrook Mystery
The Wayward Apprentice
A Stephen Attebrook Mystery #1
Stephen Attebrook, a crippled knight facing poverty and ruin, seems condemned to a quiet life when he takes a position as deputy coroner in the small town of Ludlow. ...
A Stephen Attebrook Mystery #2
October 1262 should have been a quiet month, that melancholy time following the death of summer dedicated to the chores of readying Ludlow for the onset of winter and the h...
A Dreadful Penance
A Stephen Attebrook Mystery #3
November 1262 is an unlikely season for war. But war nonetheless is coming to the March, the wild borderland between England and Wales. Not the war that most fear between t...
The Girl in the Ice
A Stephen Attebrook Mystery #4
December 1262 is one of the harshest in living memory. A series of terrible blizzards strikes England, falling with particular heaviness on the March, the blood-soaked bord...
St Milburga's Bones
A Stephen Attebrook Mystery #5
War has come again to the March of England and Wales. An army under Prince Edward is massing at Ludlow to subdue the Welsh after their invasion of the autumn of 1262, which...
A Stephen Attebrook Mystery Prequel
Eustace FitzWalter, Giselle de Hafton, and Robert Attebrook could not be more different. Eustace is the bastard son of an earl, Giselle the sheltered daughter of a dotting ...
Have you read The Outlaws?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Outlaws reader reviews
Catherine from USA
I loved this book! I've read all I can find of Vail's books except the alternative history ones (not a fan). This is my first venture into 1172-1290 something time frame. England and Europe are a mess: wars, depridations, and general mayhem from the personal level to the state level. The characters rope us into their lives and Vail is great at developing their histories, hopes and dreams. No candy coated fantasy here, folks. I almost gave up on Stephen ever making something of himself for it seemed he was doomed to be penniless and perpetually hungry and sleep deprived! (Maybe that was me projecting, as I marathon read the series!) The action is first-rate as I actually understood Vail's description of sword fights, jousting and dagger fights and such. I anxiously await additional books! Very entertaining!
9.3/10 from 2 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Death in St James's Park
Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart lad...
Mystery in the Minster
In 1358 the fledging college of Michaelhouse in Cambridge is in need of extra funds. A legacy from the Archbishop of York of a parish close to that city promises a welcome ...
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have me...
Murder on High Holborn
In 1665 England is facing war with the Dutch and the capital is awash with rumours of conspiracy and sedition. These are more frenetic than normal because of the recent sin...
Death of a Scholar
In the summer of 1358 the physician Matthew Bartholomew returns to Cambridge to learn that his beloved sister is in mourning after the unexpected death of her husband, Oswa...
Andersonville by Edward M Erdelac
Edward M Erdelac
Georgia, 1864. Camp Sumter, aka Andersonville, has earned a reputation as an open sewer of sadistic cruelty and terror where death may come at any minute. But as the Union ...
A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening
Mario de Carvalho
In the 3rd century AD, Lucerius Valerius Quincius, perfect of Tarcisis, an imaginary Roman City, begins his memoirs. His city is threatened from without and within. North A...
The King of Scotland is dead. The nobles fight over the succession, unaware that King Edward of England has plans of his own. For years, Edward has nurtured a fierce vision...
The Chelsea Strangler
In the sapping summer heat of 1665 there is little celebration in London of the naval victory at the Battle of Lowestoft. The King, his retinue and anyone with sufficient m...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: