The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters
|The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The sequel to The Last Hours doesn't disappoint but it is best read after the first book.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464/13h39m||Date: October 2018|
|Publisher: Allen & Unwin|
|External links: Author's website|
At the beginning of 1349 there is a glimmer of a hope that the ravages of the Black Death might be passing. In Devilish in Dorset the population is well, because of Lady Anne's strict rules about quarantine, which are regarded as heresy as they go against the strict rules of the church, but their stores of food are dwindling and they know that when they are exhausted they will have no choice but to leave. What will they find on the outside? Are they the only survivors?
Thaddeus Thurkell is a free-thinking, educated serf and has the courage to leave Develish in search of food and news of what is happening in the wider world. Once out in the countryside he and his companions quickly throw off the shackles of serfdom and begin to look not just for food and news but also for ways to get freedom for themselves and their people. The difficulty is doing this lawfully, but Thaddeus and Lady Anne devise an audacious plan to secure what they want.
It's almost a year since I read The Last Hours but it was still remarkably fresh in my mind. Lady Anne and Thaddeus Thurkell had stayed very real to me and I was delighted that I would find out what happened to them. I'd read the first book because I was interested to see what a giant of the crime genre could achieve in the world of historical fiction. This time I didn't need an excuse. There's just one caveat to potential readers: you could read this as a standalone, but you will miss so much if you do. Indulge yourself: read the books in order. I promise that you won't be disappointed.
We've moved away from the tensions of 1348 when hundreds of people were cooped up in Develish with the knowledge that if they left they couldn't return until they'd been through fourteen days' quarantine. In The Turn of Midnight we concentrate on other areas of Dorset. Minette Walters draws a compelling picture, not just of an area which has been ravaged by the plague but of the way in which archaic views about status and the dominance of the church are proving to be a drag on the wider community. There's a great deal of research put into all this, but the story wears it very lightly. You're not going to feel that you're being educated, although you're likely to learn a great deal.
The plan to secure independence - and particularly to free Thaddeus from serfdom is audacious and is just on the right side of believable, but if you are sceptical about whether or not it could have worked, suspend disbelief. It makes for a good story which I finished in a couple of days when I really should have been doing other things. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Do start with the first book if you're planning on reading. For a non-fiction look at the effects of the Black Death we can recommend The Scourging Angel: The Black Death in the British Isles by Benedict Gummer. If you'd like to try some of Minette Walters' crime writing we enjoyed The Cellar.
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