THE founder of Hyde 900 has turned his talents to writing the first in a series of thrillers.

Edward Fennell introduces a new protagonist to the world of genre medieval crime-writing.

Featuring local towns and locations from Hyde to Southampton and from Ashley to Farnham, Charter For Murder is set in 1381 when Sir Matthew de Somborne returns home from foreign wars to rebuild his relationship with his family only to discover that his wife has just been killed in an accident in the New Forest.

Filled with guilt – and what we would today call PTSD – he goes on pilgrimage to Canterbury taking with him his son, the squire Damian, and his yeoman servant, Osric.

But while staying overnight as a guest at Winchester’s Hyde Abbey he gets caught up in a murder investigation which takes him into the murky world of the rivalry between William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The subsequent search for the culprits - ending in the Tabard Inn, Southwark - embraces a cast of powerful people from abbots and prioresses to London lawyers and Knights of the Shire from Hampshire.

Mr Fennell, of Egbert Road near the site of Hyde Abbey, said: "Sharp-eyed readers will quickly recognise that the main characters in Charter for Murder are riffs and variations on the people featured by Geoffrey Chaucer in his prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

“Essentially the book weaves together and elaborates the relationships between these characters in a way consistent with the history of the period. Many of the incidents referred to are well-grounded in the big events of the time from the sense of social unrest culminating in the Peasants' Revolt to endless wars with Scotland and France. Yet at the same time the book is essentially a traditional, fast-paced whodunnit, but set in this fascinating period.”

Central to the story is the tricky situation that Hyde Abbey found itself in during the 1380s when inspections by the Bishop constantly exposed shortcomings and scandals. Meanwhile William of Wykeham, the Bishop, was in the middle of establishing both Winchester College and New College, Oxford.

“The fact that all these things were happening almost simultaneously – including the murder of both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the deaths of many foreigners in London during the Peasants' Revolt – is quite extraordinary. It also contrasts with the ‘Merry England’ image people associate with Chaucer. But, if you read between the lines, there is a much darker side to Chaucer anyway – and that is the line that I have taken in Charter for Murder.”

Mr Fennell founded Hyde 900 to celebrate the 900th anniversary in 2010 of the reburial of King Alfred the Great at Hyde Abbey.

Charter for Murder by Edward Fennell ISBN: 978-1-9196161-1-7 (print version) is available through P&G Wells or as an Ebook ISBN 9781919616100 from Rakuten Kobo.