Fiction Review: A Fox in the Fold, by Candace Robb


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October, 1376. Owen Archer is summoned by sheriff Sir Ralph Hastings regarding a stripped and bloodied body discovered on the road north to York. Could it be connected to an attack on a carter and his labourers who were transporting stone destined for St Clement’s Priory? The carter fled, but his men stayed to fight and are now missing. Is the victim one of them?

At first Owen believes the catalyst for murder and menace in York is the arrival of the political pariah William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. But he soon suspects that a formidable and skillful adversary from his past has arrived in the city, thrusting him and his family into grave danger, and his investigation becomes a race to uncover the truth before his old nemesis destroys all he holds dear.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

It can be daunting to dive into a series of novels when there have been thirteen previous titles and you’re looking at book fourteen. Candace Robb began writing the Owen Archer Mystery series before I began my university life, and the first ten novels were published between 1993 and 2008. There then came a break of over a decade before the next full-length tale was released. But in the past year I’ve (re)discovered my love of the ancient city of York in northern England, and I now gravitate towards fiction and non-fiction set in or about the location.

The first thing I love about A Fox in the Fold is the map of 14th century York. Many of the streets and buildings – including York Minster – still exist today. This meant I could picture where various events in the narrative took place as I read about them. Owen, his family, and his contemporaries, walked the same streets I did last year. I could also imagine the buildings that no longer exist or have been replaced over the centuries. Owen’s house, for example, is now the site of a restaurant chain, and the pub next door is currently a famous café.

A Fox in the Fold is a study of life in the city when clergy often belonged to power hungry families and had priorities not necessarily in line with the established church or Christianity. The Archbishop of York at this time was Alexander Neville, brother of John Neville, third Baron Neville de Raby. Another family member was a nun. Alexander would lose his position a decade after this story, but the Nevilles would become major players in the Wars of the Roses less than a century later. Some small knowledge of the political and economic situation in England at the time is recommended, but not necessary. I occasionally looked up online the various people involved. Many of the religious and political characters Robb featured were real life historical figures.

This isn’t only a novel about politics, however. Owen’s nemesis has a personal chip on his shoulder and takes advantage of the political situation to cause his own mayhem. Owen’s family are put in danger, but they also have their own problems. His adopted son, Jasper for example, feels he knows how the course of his life is set, but when everything falls to pieces he’s left angry and bitter. Can his father trust him? As for whether all the murders are connected, you’ll have to discover that for yourself.

This is a complex tale and won’t be finished in a couple of hours. Three-quarters of the way through I decided to start over and was glad I did because it does require concentration. I was glad to persevere with it, however, and the conclusion was a satisfying reward. I shall now be seeking more titles in the series, maybe when I’m in York next month.


Rating: 5 out of 5.


Publisher: Severn House

Publication Date: 04 October 2022

Book Information


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Candace Robb has read and researched medieval history for many years, having studied for a Ph.D. in Medieval & Anglo-Saxon Literature. She divides her time between Seattle and the UK, frequently visiting York to research the series. She is the author of eleven previous Owen Archer mysteries and three Kate Clifford medieval mysteries.

Candace Robb’s website:

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