Wednesday 6 March 2019

The Last Hours - Minette Walters

June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.
In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people's future - including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.
Lady Anne's people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls?
And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?

What did I think?

I consider historical fiction one of my favourite genres so when the mood came over me to transport myself back in time to a period of history, I picked up The Last Hours by Minette Walters.  Minette Walters is known for her thrillers, although I have never read one (yet), so I expected The Last Hours to be a bit of an historical thriller.  Oh I couldn't have been more wrong.  I can't remember the last time I struggled to finish a book but I almost gave up on The Last Hours at 33% but not one to be beaten...I forged ahead.

One thing that really stands out for me is the main character of Thaddeus Thurkell.  He's a bit of a black sheep in his family but Lady Anne sees his potential and makes him steward of the demesne when the pestilence claims the lord of the manor.  Thaddeus is such a genuine and honest character and I loved the way he interacts with everyone from the highest to the low.

To inject a bit of thriller into the novel, Minette Walters does throw in a murder and although there are a few suspects it was pretty easy to guess who the murderer was.  I still enjoyed this aspect of the book though, as the pace had been quite slow up until that point.  To be honest, if there hadn't been a murder I would have had very little to discuss about the book.

I'm sure lovers of 14th Century history will enjoy this novel, but reading it felt more like the lost hours for me.  I found the pacing slow and the storyline pretty uneventful and I was actually very surprised to find that the story was 'to be continued' in book 2: The Turn of Midnight.  Although this book wasn't for me, I'm happy to say that it definitely hasn't put me off wanting to read Minette Walters' critically acclaimed thrillers.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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