The Running Wolf by Helen Steadman

Thank you to the author, publisher and Love Books Tours for the copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

Here’s the blurb: When a Prussian smuggler is 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 Solingen in Prussia 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 Morpeth Gaol 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 Mohll 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?

Here’s my review: I enjoyed this book, not least because I used to live in Morpeth where the protagonist, Hermann Mohll, is held in the town gaol by corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. I used to walk or drive past it every day, often looking up at the imposing building and wondering what it must have been like centuries ago. Helen Steadman showed me, and her research definitely shone through.

It was fascinating reading about the daily life of immigrant Prussian swordsmiths, their troubles settling amongst the locals, and the difficulties they faced at the mercy of greedy steel suppliers. I enjoyed reading Robert Tipstaff’s musings and observations, and found them especially immersive as those chapters are written in Northumbrian dialect.

There were some rather graphic scenes of slaughtering animals but this was part and parcel of survival then, which is lost on the majority of modern readers like me who purchase meat in sterile, plastic packages.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction based around real events.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.