THE SERVICE OF THE DEAD
Pegasus Books (2016)
Paperback (May, 2017)
Kindle edition: $9.99
by Shirley Wetzel
In the late fourteenth century, England was in turmoil. King Richard and his cousin the exiled Henry, son of John of Gaunt, both claimed the crown. There were rumors that Henry had raised an army and might soon march into York. This was a time of social and political upheaval. The whole medieval world was in upheaval. The merchant class was becoming richer and more powerful; the times were changing.
Kate Clifford and her family had lived on the English/Scottish border for generations. Their Scottish enemies made frequent raids to steal cattle and battle with their English neighbors, but when a rival family killed Kate’s best friend and her twin brother Geoff, her mother moved them to safer ground in York.
York was not without its troubles. There were fears that Henry would soon be at their doorstep, and warfare was soon to follow. Kate was only vaguely aware of those issues; she was simply trying to support her family. Her husband Simon had died penniless, leaving her impoverished. Although he came from a wealthy and powerful family, he’d wasted his money on illicit activities. There was an even bigger surprise: Simon had left two bastard children with his French mistress. When she died, Simon’s brother Lionel dumped them on Kate’s doorstep. Despite her shock and anger at Simon, she could not let his children suffer.
With two more mouths to feed, Kate had to find a way to make ends meet. She rejects offers of marriage, wanting to be independent. She does own two properties, and turns one into a guesthouse for visitors to the cathedral. When there are no supplicants to house, she discretely allows a select group of men to entertain their female company, with no one the wiser. When a stranger is brutally murdered in one of the rooms, she has to enlist one she’d rather not be indebted to clean up the mess and save her reputation.
Kate is a woman ahead of her time: independent, strong-willed, able to hold her own whatever might come her way. She also has the assistance of her murdered twin brother Geoff, who whispers to her when she needs him most. All the characters, real and fictional, are fully and realistically depicted. The historical details are rich, providing a comprehensive picture of the Medieval world in the late 14th century. Fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series, and fans of historical novels in general, will welcome this new series. Highly recommended.
Copyright © 2017 Shirley Wetzel. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!