"The Running Wolf" by Helen Steadman is a nicely written and beautifully researched historical novel set in the years either side of 1700.
The plot is set out well in the publisher's blurb: "When a smuggler from Solingen in Germany finds himself imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in the winter of 1703, why does Queen Anne's powerful right-hand man, the Earl of Nottingham, take such a keen interest? At the end of the turbulent 17th century, the ties that bind men are fraying, turning neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend, and brother against brother.
"Beneath a seething layer of religious intolerance, community suspicion, and political intrigue, 'The Running Wolf' takes us deep into the heart of rebel country in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite uprising. Hermann Mohll is a master sword maker from the German city of blades, who risks his life by breaking his guild oaths and settling in England. While trying to save his family and neighbours from poverty, he is caught smuggling swords and finds himself in an English prison facing charges of high treason.
"Determined to hold his tongue and his nerve, Mohll finds himself at the mercy of the corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. The keeper fancies he can persuade the truth out of his prisoner and make him face the ultimate justice: hanging, drawing, and quartering. But in this tangled web of secrets and lies, just who is telling the truth?"
We really enjoyed this book. The thing about historical novels is that it only takes one slip, one anachronism, one use of an obviously modern turn of language, for the illusion to evaporate and for the reader - or listener - to have their faith in what the author has produced undermined. We were impressed by the way that Helen Steadman maintained our belief in the reality of the world she had created throughout: and this is a book we would unreservedly recommend.
We didn't actually read "The Running Wolf" in book form. Instead we listened to it as an Audible audiobook. Narration is by Richard Turner and it was interesting to hear him switching between vocal representations of Geordie and Germanic accents, of males and females, and of younger and more elderly characters. From a listener's point of view, we know that opinions are divided on the use of accents in audiobooks and we tend to prefer a neutral approach. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in admiration of the narrator's ability to turn Helen Steadman's novel into something a little like a radio play without getting in the way of our enjoyment of the story.