The Harlot’s Tale
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|The Harlot’s Tale
By Sam THOMAS
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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Lady Bridget Hodgson lived in York in the mid 1600s. She was married and widowed twice, and she lost her two children. She is a skilled midwife with a lot of experience. I met her for the first time in The Midwife’s Tale.
When I was invited to review The harlot’s Tale for this book tour, I accepted right away, all too happy to spend some more time with Bridget, her assistant midwife Mary Hawkins, and her servant Hannah. Just to reassure you, it works really well as a standalone, you can understand this one very well even if you have not read the #1 in the series.
Just like in the 1st mystery in the series, Bridget is summoned by her brother, working for the police, to help him in a double murder. But as in The Midwife’s Tale, Edward does not want her to get too much involved and is preparing to pronounce justice by himself. As usual, Bridget can feel he is mistaken, and she has very little time to investigate by herself to figure who really did it and why. Things get more complicated as more murders are discovered, with disturbing similarities.
We are in Summer 1645, a sizzling summer in York. The political situation is just as hot: the city has fallen into Parliament’s hands, and the masters are hardcore Puritans – Edward is one of them, as well as one of his sons, Joseph.
“Godly preachers roared against plays, dancing, and other sinful recreations”, such as alehouses and whore houses.
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“But from the beginning it seemed to me the godly would take their reformation further and faster than seemed prudent.”
I liked how the author integrated the religion issue of the time at the heart of the mysteries, including several key Bible quotations, and the mysterious blind preacher Hezekiah.
The book also gives a good idea about the situation of women at the time, especially the poor, who often did not have too many choices to survive apart from whoredom.
Thomas is very good at describing York’s back alleys, dark areas plagued by poverty, where I shudder to accompany Bridget.
There are also interesting dynamics between the characters, particularly here between Bridget’s nephews, Joseph and Will, and their father Edward. Their relationship helps illustrate the broader issue of religion at that time in England.
I was fun also meeting again Tree, the orphan.
I found this book a bit slow to start, as far as the mystery itself is concerned, but the author does a great job on the historical context, so much so that this book should please both mystery and historical fiction lovers.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
t is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, whipping is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.
Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.
To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction. [provided by HFVBT]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Alabama with his wife and two children.
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