Monday, November 10, 2014

Sinful Folk: A Medieval Mystery Most Noir

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02_Sinful Folk
A tragic loss. A desperate journey. A mother seeks the truth.

In December of 1377, four children were burned to death in a house fire. Villagers traveled hundreds of miles across England to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this terrible mid-winter journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. For years, she has concealed herself and all her history. But on this journey, she will find the strength to redeem the promise of her past. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and transcendence.

The remarkable new novel by Ned Hayes, illustrated by New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Nikki McClure, Sinful Folk illuminates the medieval era with profound insight and compassion.


I’ve read medieval mysteries characterized as medieval noir, but Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes is as noir as it gets.  The medieval villagers we meet in this novel have dark secrets, and a number of them have either committed terrible deeds, or stood by without protest while they were perpetrated.  Many of the nobility who think of themselves as superior are no better.  Characters who have principles are seen as simple and childlike.  Christianity is not the faith of a loving God, but one that justifies acts of cruelty and intolerance.  Welcome to a 14th century England where chivalry is very nearly dead, and hearts that are pure are likely to be pureed. 

Many contemporary readers prefer dark fiction because they consider it more realistic.  I am not one of them, but I do appreciate historical fiction that is well-written by a writer who has done some homework about the period.  He certainly knows the work of Geoffrey Chaucer whose Canterbury Tales is the most iconic piece of literature associated with this era.

The author’s note “About Edward the Black Prince” interested me because The Black Prince looms large in the back story of the protagonist, Mear.   Ned Hayes tells us that the motto of the Black Prince “Houmout” is mysterious, and that there is no scholarly agreement about its meaning.   I have the tendency to run searches about historical issues in the books I read because I was a history major as an undergraduate.  That’s why I wanted to see whether there was any consensus about Houmout.  Indeed there was one.  Everywhere I looked Houmout was said to be from Old Flemish or Low German, and that it meant courage or honor.  There may be scholars who see Houmout differently, but I didn’t find any mention of such a disagreement in the online sources that I could freely access.   The speculation in Hayes' note is interesting, but it involves a major plot spoiler.  So I will not discuss it further here.

The mystery of the four dead youths of this village who were burned alive is at the center of the narrative.  Surprising developments arise during the process of discovering the truth about this awful crime.   The truth about various characters changes over the course of the novel as their secrets are uncovered.  I thought that the protagonist had layers of complexity while still being sympathetic.  I wanted her to triumph against all the obstacles in her path, and I liked the bittersweet ending.  


Buy the Book

Booknote Interview with Ned Hayes

About the Author

03_Ned Hayes Credit Linda Marus 2012Ned Hayes is the author of the Amazon best-selling historical novel SINFUL FOLK. He is also the author of Coeur d'Alene Waters, a noir mystery set in the Pacific Northwest. He is now at work on a new novel, Garden of Earthly Delights, also set in the Middle Ages.

Ned Hayes is a candidate for an MFA from the Rainier Writer’s Workshop, and holds graduate degrees in English and Theology from Western Washington University and Seattle University.

Born in China, he grew up bi-lingually, speaking both Mandarin and English. He now lives in Olympia, Washington with his wife and two children.

For more information please visit and . You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Booklikes, YouTube, Google+, and Goodreads.

Sinful Folk Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 20

Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, October 21

Review at Historical Novel Review

Wednesday, October 22

Spotlight at What is That Book About

Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, October 23

Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Guest Post at Books and Benches

Monday, October 27

Review at Just One More Chapter

Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, October 28

Interview at Layered Pages

Wednesday, October 29

Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, October 30

Interview at Back Porchervations

Friday, October 31

Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, November 3

Interview at Triclinium

Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, November 4

Spotlight at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, November 5

Review at Deal Sharing Aunt

Thursday, November 6

Review at bookramblings

Saturday, November 8

Review at Book Nerd

Monday, November 10

Review at Book Babe

Tuesday, November 11

Review at Impressions in Ink

Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Friday, November 14

Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, November 18

Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Review & Giveaway at Beth's Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 19

Review at Books in the Burbs

Review at Bookworm Babblings

Thursday, November 20

Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, November 21

Review at Library Educated

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