Follow Here To Purchase Sinful Folk: A Novel of the Middle Ages

Author: Ned Hayes

ISBN: 13978-0-9852393-

Publisher: Campanile books

A fascinating tale of long ago emerges from the pages of author Ned Hayes as he retells history from the perspective of someone whose true identity and full story is a secret for much of the book.  In fourteenth century northeast England, five young boys (Breton, Stephen, Matthew, Jonathan and Christian) were burned to death in a deliberately-set fire in the home of the local weaver in the isolated village of Duns.

A former nun who has lived in the village for over ten years is disguised as a single mute father raising his son (who is one of the boys killed in the fire) and becomes the focus for author Ned Haye’s skillful storytelling.  Uneducated and superstitious, the people of Duns believe that Jews are to blame and Mear and the fathers of the four other boys set out on a treacherous midwinter two hundred mile journey, bringing the burned bodies to the monastery to ask protection for the journey to the King where they will demand justice for the death of the children.   

It is a journey of deception, starvation, suspicion, murder,  conspiratorial thoughts, secrets and unanswered questions:  Why were the boys at the weaver's house at night? Who tied the rope (with the strange triple knot tied across a half hitch - the same knot that was tied across the cart that carried the bodies of the dead boys on a cart) to the doors of the burning house which prevented the doors from opening?   Why were the boys dressed in warm cloaks and furs when they were inside?  Is Mear a witch?  Who is the father of Mear’s son?  As Mear and the despondent men leave the village, Mear discovers that one of them set the fire which killed the boys.  But which one?

As the brutal and tragic story unfolds through surprising twists and turns in the plot, Mear’s secrets are slowly revealed in the most unexpected ways.  It is a journey fraught with danger: in 14th century England, if peasants travelled without permission, they could be punished by civil law.  If found with unburied bodies, they could be punished by ecclesiastical law.  In either case, the punishment could be severe … “we few from the village are nothing in the greater world ...we could be taken for chattel, for labor, even for killing sport … any man may kill or injure us without consequence.”  

Author Hayes is a skilled writer who not only writes a fascinating plot with beautifully developed characters, but writes poetical prose with ease: “Winter crouches over us, sipping away at our souls, as a devil’s cat steals a newborn child’s breath.”  A true wordsmith, Hayes paints-with-words in ways that invite the reader into the world of each character where sounds, sights, smells, felt emotions are palpable.

Sinful folk is an intriguing book with a title that invites the reader to not only ask “who” are the sinful but “what” is sin?   The art on the cover (by artist Nicky McClure) serves as a gentle yet powerful invitation to enter into the gripping world of the sinful folk of this powerfully written book.