Monday, January 13, 2014

The Winter Siege by D.W. Bradbridge

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 
Read: January 12, 2014

1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe. While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause. When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him. He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder. With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love. When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

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I have a love-hate relationship with historic fiction that focuses on the common man, but I seem to have lucked out D.W. Bradbridge's The Winter Siege. Meticulously detailed and wonderfully atmospheric, this convoluted murder mystery was simply impossible to put down.

Initially skeptical, I approached this piece as I do must historical whodunits. Simply put, I hope for the best and pray the period detail won’t be lost in an overly ambitious web of conspiracy and intrigue, which, now that I think on it, this is probably why I was so unprepared for the story within these pages.

Usually, I’m that reader who puts two and two together before the chapter five and finishes the book for the pure satisfaction of being right, but Bradbridge actually kept me guessing. I won’t spoil it for you, but I that fact that I was genuinely perplexed is really quite extraordinary. 

I was equally surprised by Bradbridge's protagonist, Daniel Cheswis. An established businessman, the reserved volunteer constable is an unwilling hero. Both sympathetic and relatable, he was an unexpectedly welcome departure from the glory hounds and tragic anti-heroes that typically populate this genre. 

Most astonishing, however, was Bradbridge’s description of Nantwich. Backdrops rarely jump out at me in this manner, but Bradbridge's dedicated research resulted in a remarkably authentic and insightful portrait of the city, its inhabitants and the rhythms that characterized daily life during this particularly tumultuous period of English history. Treated as a character in and of itself, the city literally comes to life over the course of the narrative, jumping from page with a personality of its own.

A weightier historical, The Winter Siege isn’t something I’d recommend to the casual reader, but it is without doubt one of the most cleverly convincing pieces I had fortune to come across.  

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"Then do you duty, Daniel, " said Ann. " But do not linger. It's time this nightmare was brought to an end - for all of us."
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Check out all the stops on d.w. bradbridge's The Winter siege vIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

Monday, January 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, January 14
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, January 15
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, January 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, January 17
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Monday, January 20
Review at Closed the Cover
Tuesday, January 21
Giveaway at The Novel Life
Wednesday, January 22
Interview at Closed the Cover
Friday, January 24
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Monday, January 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, January 28
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, January 29
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, January 30
Guest Post & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read
Monday, February 3
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Tuesday, February 4
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, February 5
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Friday, February 7
Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Monday, February 10
Review at Reading the Ages
Tuesday, February 11
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Thursday, February 13
Review at Just One More Chapter
Friday, February 14
Guest Post at HF Connection

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