Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: October 2, 2013

It 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, this 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.

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Author Sam Thomas introduced readers to the independent and unconventional Bridget Hodgson in The Midwife’s Tale, but her crime solving days are far from over. Picking up a year after the original story, book two of the series, The Harlot’s Tale, returns to the tumultuous streets of York, where Bridget, Martha and Will must race to discover who is sending the city’s sinners to their final judgment. 

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to make it clear that while The Harlot’s Tale can be read independent of its predecessor, the book is best appreciated as a follow-up. Thomas provides all necessary information for those readers who might have missed his 2013 debut, but there is a lot to be said for the nuance and subtle detail built on the foundation of the original which is why I highly recommend reading the series in chronological order. 

Take for example, Thomas’ setting. Under siege in 1644, York felt like a city under occupation with its rhythms dominated by military order. A year later, York has fallen into Puritan hands and is utterly transformed by dogmatic conflict. Thomas’ ability to first recreate seventeenth century York and then convincingly reinvent his fiction is nothing short of extraordinary, but the effort wouldn’t be noticed by those who’d skipped the first installment. 

Also of note is Thomas' cast and how he successfully avoided the situational and personal drama he highlighted in The Midwife’s Tale. These are the same characters, but they’ve grown with the passage of time and that progression has wrought slight changes to their personalities as well as the role each plays in the larger story. There is a certain degree of familiarity here, but Thomas moves the story forward, effectively balancing the interests of new readers against those of his established fans. 

Like its predecessor, I didn’t feel the mystery particularly enigmatic, but that being said, I liked how it played out. Despite having correctly identified the culprit in the early stages of the novel, I remained engaged in the narrative and greatly enjoyed watching the details come to light. 

A vividly atmospheric and action-packed historical, The Harlot's Tale is a deliciously alluring fiction that cleverly combines doctrine, disorder and death in a single irresistible volume.  

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I have seen thy adulteries and the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thy abominations on the hills in the fields: woe unto thee, O Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean?
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check out all the stops on Sam Thomas' The Harlot's Tale VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

Monday, January 6
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at Words and Peace
Tuesday, January 7
Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, January 8
Review at Broken Teepee
Interview at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, January 9
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, January 10
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Monday, January 13
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, January 14
Review at Impressions in Ink
Interview & Giveaway at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, January 15
Review at Book of Secrets
Thursday, January 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, January 17
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, January 20
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, January 21
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Wednesday, January 22
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Interview at The Most Happy Reader
Thursday, January 23
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Friday, January 24
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader

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