M6630_SwarmingBees-238x238From Goodreads:”“A herbwife on a mule may go where warriors cannot – she may see what warriors cannot see and hear what warriors cannot hear!”
The Monastery at Whitby is ruled over by the powerful and independent Abbess Hild. But when she needs someone to confide in, she turns to the honest warmth of her friend Fridgyth, the half-pagan herb-wife.
A divisive and life-altering decision taken at the Great Synod is swiftly overshadowed as the monastery is ravaged by a deadly plague. As she tends the sick, Fridgyth starts to suspect that not all the deaths are natural. Despite Hild’s stern warnings “not to meddle” she sets out to investigate.
Can Fridgyth’s wisdom and intuition unmask the murderer and unravel the dark politics surrounding the deaths and clandestine arrival of two young scholars?
A SWARMING OF BEES is an absorbing and richly atmospheric murder mystery.”


I really enjoyed this historical crime fiction set around a monastery in 7th Century Whitby. I actually read this years ago when it was first published and couldn’t resist listening to the audiobook when it was offered to me for review.

As the synopsis above mentions the story centres around the relationship between the Abbess Hild, and her friend Fridgyth, the herb-wife. Hild is a Christian and Fridgyth a pagan who is intrigued by her friend’s Christian way of life but not ready to convert. I really liked their friendship and enjoyed hearing about Fridgyth’s pagan view of the world, how she mentioned the Norse gods when she was angry or worried.

The story starts with a synod being held at the monastery, with royalty  and religious figures arriving to discuss very important issues of the day. There are a lot of people staying at the Abbey and the herbwife is needed to help out. Whilst Fridgyth is amongst the hordes she notices a few strange characters arriving and so the intrigue and mystery of this story begins.

There were lots of different characters to remember in this story, which was a bit confusing at first especially as the names were old English and Celtic names. However, but as the story moved on it didn’t matter so much. I enjoyed trying to work out what was going on and why, remembering certain plot twists from when I originally read the story. 

I absolutely loved Danielle Cohen’s narration, it was superb and brought Fridgyth, Hild and the other characters to life perfectly. I wouldn’t hesitate to listen to other books read by this narrator and have added her to my favourite narrators list.

I definitely recommend this audiobook to lovers of historical fiction and mysteries.

Thanks so much to Hope Roy at Tantor Media for my digital copy.