Fourth in the author's Domesday series set in an 11th-century England ruled by William the Conqueror. Once again, ex-soldier Ralph Delchard is on a mission for the King (The Dragons of Archenfield, 1995, etc.), this time heading a group delegated to settle land disputes in Yorkshire, in the wake of the devastating Norman victory there. Ralph rides from Winchester, his mistress Golde beside him, with his fellow commissioners--gentle lawyer Gervase Bret, wise Canon Hubert, wimpy scribe Brother Simon, and Tanchelm of Ghent, a special emissary from the King, along with the armed soldiers needed to keep them safe on the dangerous journey to York--a precaution that fails to prevent the theft of five horses and supplies at an overnight stop--surely the work of outlaw Olaf Evil Child. The party's destination in York is the castle of rich, gregarious Aubrey Maminot, Ralph's old friend, who wines and dines his guest lavishly as the commissioners begin their hearings. The castle is guarded, in addition to its soldiers, by a pair of ferocious lions in the care of Ludovico that, shortly before Ralph's arrival, had torn to shreds a young, unidentified intruder. The cases brought before the commission are beginning to reveal a pattern of villainy, but not until Tanchelm is mysteriously killed while alone in a meeting room does Ralph begin to question the security arrangements at the castle--finding his answers about them in a fight to the death. The best by far of this series: abrim with energy, heroism, tenderness, chicanery, and suspense while crisply evoking a vivid picture of the era.