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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Deepest Grave and The Last Hours: Historical Mysteries

The Deepest Grave by Jeri Westerson continues the adventures of the Tracker Crispin Guest, a degraded knight whose loyalty to John of Gaunt cost him everything.

From the book description:  "London, 1392. Strange mischief is afoot at St Modwen's Church. Are corpses stalking the graveyard at night, disturbing graves, and dragging coffins?"

I've enjoyed this series and watching Crispin's character become less surly and resentful as he has adapted to the changes in his life.  Of course, with the above teaser about walking corpses, I wasn't about to miss this one.

When Crispin is asked to investigate the revenants, he is a bit torn between skepticism and fear, but skepticism and curiosity win.  Jack, on the other hand, wants no part of the graveyard at night. 

Philippa Walcote (! from Crispin's past) also requires the Tracker's help, and a reluctant Crispin discovers a secret he never expected.  How can the two cases be related?

Despite Crispin's cynical attitude toward holy relics, relics continue to return to him. :)

Read in April; blog review scheduled for July 24.

NetGalley/Severn House

Historical Mystery.  August 1, 2018.  Print length:  224 pages.

From book description:  "June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands. "

I love historical fiction, but have to admit to being surprised that one of my favorite authors of dark psychological fiction has returned with a novel set during the first outbreak of the the plague. The Black Death was, really, the first dystopian situation.  

In The Last Hours, Lady Ann of Develish cuts her estate off from the rest of the world in time to prevent the disease from laying waste to her people.  Lady Ann is a strong character with a better understanding of disease and contagion than most from her years in an abbey before her marriage.  The enforced quarantine gives the people in the Manor a chance to survive.

Safety from the contagion is only part of the problem, however.  As time passes, there is also the threat of starvation.  Eventually, Thaddeus Thurkill and a few adolescents leave the safety of the Manor seeking supplies.

The novel has several stories going on and plenty of well-rounded characters, both good and bad.  This is a story of personalities united in survival mode.  Carrying on the dystopian idea, those infected by the plague are reminiscent of  zombies.  The infected carry death and no one understands how or why.  

I'm always in for survivor stories.

Well-researched, but modern enough in thought and language to create a fascinating tale of the endurance of humanity against the odds. 

The incident in which Thaddeus is frightened by a cat made me curious. From a brief mention I made on my other blog when I finished reading:  An interesting side-note:  The plague has devastated the countryside, entire villages dead or fled.  The Dorset countryside is largely bereft of the living when a character investigates an abandoned building that, unaccountably, has no evidence of rats.  Thaddeus is initially terrified when a strange creature jumps out at him. A demon with strange eyes?  The young man had heard of cats, but never seen one because the Church considered them familiars of witches. 

When I read the section about the Church associating cats with evil, I was surprised.  I'd never heard that before--which is when I did a little research and found plenty of authentication.   The Church at the time preached against cats, which were associated with witches and the devil and were often killed.  In some areas, cats were essentially unknown.  Some authorities believe that the prejudice against cats was one of the reasons the plague was so devastating in certain areas--the rat population had no predators.(from Bayouquilts)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and there is a sequel in the works--but then I love history and historical novels.

Read in March; blog review scheduled for July 24.


Historical Fiction.  August 7, 2018.  Print length:  547 pages.  

OOPS--didn't realize I'd scheduled two posts for the same day! 


  1. I think that The Last Hours sounds fascinating! What is it about the Black Death that just makes you want to read about it? And I think I knew that about cats. Could totally see how having no cats at all would allow the rats (the plague carriers) to flourish. I'm going to watch for this one. Reminds me a bit of Geraldine Brooks book, Year of Wonders, with a village isolated from others during illness. Think it takes place in the 1600's though.

    1. I liked this one better than Year of Wonders. :) This is so different from Minette Walters' psychological suspense novels, but a fascinating historical novel. The plague was a genuine dystopian experience in many ways.

  2. Both of these books sound intriguing, but I've to say The Last Hours really caught my attention. :)

    1. The Last Hours kept me involved throughout. It is hard to imagine so many people dying so quickly and all of the potential consequences.

  3. Ooh, both of these books do sound really good! Especially The Deepest Grave. Think I'll have to give both of these a read. :)

  4. I had heard that theory about the plague spreading more in some areas do to the prejudice against cats. I am so glad Walters' book turned out well. That's on my to read list. I am looking forward to it. I also am really curious about The Deepest Grave. You had me at walking corpses.

    1. :) Crispin has been an interesting character to follow through all of the political and religious adventures. I've been intrigued with religious relics since reading The Pardoner's Tale so many years ago. Love the cynical approach Crispin takes about holy relics and the paradoxical way these relics seem to be drawn to him.

  5. This is one author that I've always wanted to try.

  6. I've been a fan of Minette Walters and just haven't read any of her more recent novels but I really would like to see where she goes with this one. Sounds fascinating!