"There is no doubt that Ms Lewis is passionate about her era and characters, she has done a pretty good job of examining the politics of the time and she particularly excels at conjuring the religious fervour of the period"
It is 1226 and Ela Longspee, countess of Salisbury, has barely started to grieve for her husband William when she is called to a murder. A girl has been found in the river, revealed only when the ice thawed. Ela would much rather return to her castle and mourn her loss, but the girl deserves justice, and as she has insisted on taking on the duties of her husband as sheriff of Wiltshire, the investigation falls to her. Ela has no idea where to start, has not even an identity, but when it is discovered the girl was pregnant, solving her mystery becomes more urgent.
The story takes place in a Salisbury that is undergoing a transformation. The new soaring cathedral has just been completed and around it, a new town is springing up. King John is dead but his son, Henry III, is a somewhat shadowy presence in the story. More vibrant is Hubert de Burgh the chief justiciar of the kingdom and right-hand man of the young king, and Ela's mortal enemy.
There is no doubt that Ms Lewis is passionate about her era and characters, she has done a pretty good job of examining the politics of the time and she particularly excels at conjuring the religious fervour of the period, bringing that aspect into sharp focus, probably better than any other author I have read. However, that has to be tempered with the anachronisms that rather spoil the overall effect, muddling the sense of time. These and the several typos do detract from the overall reading experience.
To be honest, though, for most readers these make little difference and they probably wouldn't notice them, but a prolific historical fiction reader will. Perhaps the author would consider another quick edit? This will give that final polish to what, otherwise, is a thoroughly entertaining, comfortable read with enough tension to keep one guessing to the end.
© Nicky Galliers
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