A Word In Your Ear: The Year 1000<br></br>Thus Was Adonis Murdered

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The Independent Culture

Danny Danziger and John Gillingham's enthralling social history of England before the Norman Conquest, The Year 1000, could have been just another millennial spin-off, but its success has led them to follow it up with 1215: The Year of Magna Carta (Hodder, 2 hrs, £9.99). This time we are deep in the England of bad King John, and the story is structured around the clauses of Magna Carta. It works both as a picture of daily life from cradle to grave and an intimate history of the Plantagenet dynasty. Tim Pigott-Smith reads superbly, but too often has to leave an interesting subject more abruptly than the authors had intended. It's a pity this was not a four-tape abridgement.

Sarah Caudwell's witty, ingenious and engaging thrillers are set around a group of extremely precious barristers in a London Inn of Court. The plot unfolds in the form of holiday letters sent back to the chambers from Julia Larwood while on an art lovers' tour of Venice. Julia has a brilliant legal mind but cannot find the right way into a pair of tights, let alone to the right palazzo, without help. When she finds herself accused of murder, it takes all the distant acumen of her colleagues to save her. Eva Haddon's lively reading of Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Isis, c 8 hrs, £17.99, 0800 7315637) gives instant personality to the eccentric characters, making it easy to pick up on the series halfway through.