Sarah Woodbury has masterfully blended rich strands of history with fine webs of murderous intrigue in her newest novel Crouchback. The reader is instantly engaged as childhood friends, Rhys and Catrin, are reunited in their birth country Wales after twenty years apart. The Welsh natives are not only dedicated to helping their fellow countrymen but are also attempting to untangle the mystery behind a handful of murders, and all this while maneuvering around the thumb of the conquering Edward I – the risks are unquestionably high.

Picking sides (the conquered and the conquerors) in this first Welsh Guard Mystery is not necessary. Woodbury writes in such a way that her English, Norman, and Welsh characters are multi-layered, multi-faceted, complex humans that make good, bad, and ugly decisions. For the men who fight for their country, their leaders, and their honor, friendships are tested. For those bonds forged in war that do not break, the resulting relationships are lasting and oh, so amazing to read about.

*Note – I love how the author heads each chapter with the elapsed days after the first body is found – very The First 48 and Cold Case Files. Just one more detail that gives the reader a true investigative crime scene drama feel.

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