|Friend and Foe (A Hew Cullan Mystery) by Shirley McKay|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: 16th century Scottish academic lawyer and part-time sleuth Hew Cullan is back and mixing in ecclesiastical circles as well as those of royalty. It may not be considered an extreme pursuit today, but in 1583 it was pretty much a death wish. Oh dear, Hew.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: May 2014|
|Publisher: Polygon Press|
|External links: Author's website|
1583 and King James VI of Scotland is paranoid and, after the events of the Ruthven raid the year before, who can blame him? Surely this won't affect humble academic lawyer Hew Cullen? Oh but it will, eventually causing more turmoil than even he is used to. Back at the beginning though, while Hew continues, unaware of what's to come, he has more pressing domestic worries that, for once, don't affect his herbalist sister Meg or his doctor brother-in-law Giles. Indeed, this time the concern is the love of Hew's own heart.
Northeast-of-England-born, Scottish-adopted Shirley Mckay brings us the fourth in her informative suspense filled, downright entertaining Hew Cullen series. As usual, it's designed to be read precisely how you want to read it – stand alone, out of sequence or next-in-series are all possibilities.
We join Hew, Meg and Giles in their native St Andrews a little while after Hew's recovery from his windmill adventure. Giles' summons to examine the oddly ailing Archbishop Patrick Adamson is only the beginning as Shirley weaves fascinating but seemingly inconsequential sub-plots through the story. Watch out though: nothing is for nothing and eventually one of these inconsequentialities will reach out of the Scottish mist and… Well, you'll see what it does.
For an example of Shirley's skill look no further than the fact that the body count we almost expect from her these days doesn't start till two-thirds in. That's not a complaint though. We aren't exactly tapping our toes as she gives us plenty to occupy our minds while we wait.
Shirley once again demonstrates the dichotomy of the era through these people we've come to know and love. We arrive at a time when the hunger for science appears insatiable, fostered by establishments like St Andrews University, yet fear of spirits and being shot by fairy darts prevail in other quarters. (That's not a euphemism by the way; otherwise rational people did live in fear of being shot by vengeful fairies!) Women are as intelligent and capable as today, evidenced by the constant requests for and success of Meg's healing potions. Yet even women with enlightened husbands like Giles don't know what builders are doing in their own homes.
We are also privy to the hassle involved in hosting a royal visit when King James VI descends on the town, spelling trouble for more than the poor inn keeper.
Even four books in our heroes are still developing. We therefore learn more about the support Hew provides for two fatherless lads and, indeed, see where such charity will get him.
This isn't only a world of psychological damage, manipulation, unjustified judicial execution and at least one particularly nasty baddie; by the end it's a world that for Hew will never be the same again. In fact, Shirley, may I say that your cliff-hanger brands you as a literary tease? It's also the reason why I'm starting the queue for Hew Cullen Book 5 right here. Behind me everyone!
(Thank you, Polygon, for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals then we recommend Hew Cullen Book 3. If you're already a fan of this historical sleuth, we'd like to point you in the direction of another in the form of Matthew Shardlake.
You can read more book reviews or buy Friend and Foe (A Hew Cullan Mystery) by Shirley McKay at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Friend and Foe (A Hew Cullan Mystery) by Shirley McKay at Amazon.com.
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