Friday 3 July 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Apothecary by Joan Fallon

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11th century
Bk 1 The City of Dreams

“When the ruler of Malaga dies in strange circumstances, only Umar has the courage to suggest it was murder. He decides to investigate the caliph's death even though it may result in his own. But when Umar is arrested, he knows that time is running out. His family and friends bring all their resources into play to try to find out who is behind the assassination and secure his release before he is executed. In the first novel in a new historical series set in Moorish Spain, Joan Fallon sets the action in the busy medieval port of Malaga. Following on from the successful al-Andalus series, we meet up again with the younger members of the family who had escaped from the besieged city of Cordoba.”

As holidays abroad, at the moment (May 2020)  are non-existent because of Covid-19, and possibly, will remain so for some while, the next best thing is to travel virtually via a good book that takes you to a different country – in the case of historical fiction, to a different time as well.  Joan Fallon’s The Apothecary suits nicely and ticks all the boxes, particularly if, like me, you read it while relaxing in your sun-lounger in the garden during a series of very hot days!

This novel will take you to the south coast of Spain, when the dynasty of Omayyad, and the Golden Age, has ended after two hundred and seventy-five years. We meet Makoud and his family, who arrive in M├ílaga hoping to start a new life, one that starts out well. Makoud is an apothecary, and starts his own shop, but then rumours start about the unexpected death of the caliph – rumours of murder by poison. Did Makoud inadvertently sell such a poison? His eldest son, Umar, takes it upon himself to delve deeper into the circumstances of the caliph’s death – but the lies and intrigue that come hand-in-hand with murder soon starts to catch him up. 

Umar himself is a beautifully created character, as are all the characters – I was eager to keep reading to find out not just ‘what happened next’, but to be there with these characters, to discover what happened to them, personally as they very quickly became my fictional friends. Ms Fallon’s research is impeccable, with the language and atmosphere of the place and period as excellently achieved as her well-paced plot.

This is the first of a new series for Ms Fallon. I look forward to the next...

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Anne Holt

 e-version reviewed

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