Friday, 28 October 2016

The Plague Charmer

The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland
Published by Headline Review
Hardback Edition
20th October 2016


Riddle me this: I have a price, but it cannot be paid in gold or silver.

1361. Porlock Weir, Exmoor. Thirteen years after the Great Pestilence, plague strikes England for the second time. Sara, a packhorse man's wife, remembers the horror all too well and fears for safety of her children.
Only a dark-haired stranger offers help, but at a price that no one will pay.

Fear gives way to hysteria in the village and, when the sickness spreads to her family, Sara finds herself locked away by neighbours she has trusted for years. And, as her husband - and then others - begin to die, the cost no longer seems so unthinkable.

The price that I ask, from one willing to pay... A human life.

I haven’t read a Karen Maitland novel since she published Company of Liars back in 2009 and to be honest, I’m not sure why not.  When I got sent The Plague Charmer to review during the summer holidays I began it instantly.  Set in 1361, the book is situated in Exmoor in a remote village called Porlock Weir.  Our central narrator is a dwarf called Will who sees and hears most of what goes on around him, principally due to the fact that people presume he cannot hear or understand them.  One day a strange package is washed up on the shore and shortly afterwards a woman is rescued from drowning.  She brings with her a message for the villagers, warning of a breakout of the plague that only she can prevent – if they will only pay her price.

The villagers refuse and soon the plague makes the return that was predicted. The villagers panic and soon families are ostracised in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading across Porlock Weir.  However it appears that the disease can and will strike anywhere and even those with connections are not safe.

There are loads of characters in Karen Maitland’s books and sometimes it is a little confusing to remember who is who at times; thankfully she always includes a list of them at the start of her novels which is of immense help to the reader.  I really enjoyed this trip back to Medieval England and even the length of almost 600 pages seemed to wiz by.  I’m already looking forward to her next book and in the meantime I’m off to read her previous books!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 7 October 2016

Death at the Seaside

Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

Published by Piatkus

6th October 2016
Paperback Edition

Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate Shackleton deserves a break. Heading off for a long-overdue holiday to Whitby, she visits her school friend Alma who works as a fortune teller there.

Kate had been looking forward to a relaxing seaside sojourn, but upon arrival discovers that Alma's daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-guard. What makes this more intriguing is the jeweller who advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is Jack Phillips, Alma's current gentleman friend.

Kate can't help but become involved, and goes to the jeweller's shop to get some answers. When she makes a horrifying discovery in the back room, it soon becomes clear that her services are needed. Met by a wall of silence by town officials, keen to maintain Whitby's idyllic fa├žade, it's up to Kate - ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden - to discover the truth behind Felicity's disappearance.

And they say nothing happens in August . . .

This is the eighth Kate Shackleton mystery, and is set in Whitby where Kate has ventured for a relaxing holiday to visit her old school friend Alma, and her goddaughter Felicity.  As readers of Frances Brody will know, Kate can’t go anywhere without a mystery following her, and her trip to the seaside town is of no exception.

Trawling the streets of the Whitby, Kate reminices about buying her wedding ring from the local jewellers shop, and ventures inside to buy Felicity a bracelet she has seen in the window.  However, what she doesn’t expect upon entering the shop, is to find the owner Jack Phillips, lying dead on the shop floor.  Things begin to deepen further when it turns out that Alma is in a relationship with Mr Phillips and to make matters worse, Felicity seems to have vanished but no one knows to where she has disappeared!

As a reader we do know where Felicity is going, so are privy to two sides of the story as she undertakes her own adventure; and Kate endeavours to solve the suspicious death of the jewellery shop owner and discover Felicity’s whereabouts.  Set in the 1920s this is a mostly gentle step back in time to the days when crime was no less violent than today but where the pace is so much slower.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x