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The Harlot's Tale: A Midwife Mystery (The Midwife's Tale) Paperback – December 16, 2014
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Thomas brings readers to the England of 1645, a country torn by civil war. The city of York, now in Puritan hands, is suffering from a severe heat wave. The ruling Puritans are sure that it is a sign from God, punishing the citizens for their evil ways. They respond by clamping down still further on drunks, prostitutes, and those who utilize their services. This is not sufficient for someone. When a prostitute and her customer are found brutally stabbed, Edward, one of the city’s governors, asks his sister-in-law, midwife Bridget Hodgson, and her assistant, Martha Hawkins, to assist with the investigation. There is no shortage of suspects. As the bodies continue to pile up, Hezekiah Ward, a fire-and-brimstone preacher newly arrived in York; his son, named Praise-God; and their fanatic followers appear to be involved. Edward’s son Joseph is also concerned with ridding the city of sin. His brother, Will, who drinks a bit too much, assists Bridget and Martha as they uncover decadent behavior in high places while evading the killer. Historical-mystery readers will enjoy this well-plotted story featuring an assortment of strong women. --Barbara Bibel --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Sam Thomas has created one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction--a crime-solving, wealthy, widowed midwife in embattled 17th-century York, England. . . . Bridget is as fascinating, fun and fierce as ever. . . The characters are wonderfully drawn, complex and real. . . . enjoyably readable.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Besides making his heroine a plausible sleuth, Thomas conveys the challenges of midwifery without clumsy exposition.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred)
“The people of York are already suffering from the sweltering summer of 1645 when, suddenly, a serial killer adds to their woes. . . . As the killings continue, Bridget does everything in her power to discover the killer from among far too many candidates.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“The mystery is a satisfying one. . . . Thomas includes plenty of details about a midwife's work and standing in society that will fascinate anyone interested in the lives of women. . . . While Lady Hodgson is minor nobility, there's nary a king or duke in sight, making The Midwife's Tale a refreshing change from the usual crowns and gowns of historical fiction.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“A determined midwife must solve a murder to save a friend from a horrible end. . . . Historian Thomas' fiction debut is packed with fascinating information about a midwife's skills and life during the English civil war. The ingenious, fast-paced mystery is a bonus.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Sam Thomas is a historian by profession and it shows in the wealth of detail with which he recreates the city of York amid the turmoil of the English civil war in his debut novel, The Midwife's Tale. At the center of this gripping and fascinating story is Bridget Hodgson, an aristocrat who acts as town midwife--and thus is privy to secrets in the highest and lowest parts of town. Her feisty assistant Martha will be a character to watch in future books.” ―Rhys Bowen, author of the bestselling Royal Spyness series
“Don't read this last thing at night! A heart-stopping page-turner, coupled with a gritty and realistic portrayal of two strong and contrasting woman characters vividly depicted against the backdrop of the besieged city of York in the 17th century.” ―Cora Harrison, author of Deed of Law and The Sting of Justice
“A briskly plotted historical mystery starring a pair of brave, tenacious, intelligent women who take no prisoners and make no apologies.” ―Lyndsay Faye, author of Gods of Gotham
“The gripping story, fascinating characters, and intriguing era make Samuel Thomas' debut mystery a reader's delight.” ―Priscilla Royal, The Killing Season and Wine of Violence
“Thomas spins a most dramatic, murderous tale where mystery curls as thick and treacherous as the mist over the besieged city.” ―P. C. Doherty, author of Nightshade
“Samuel Thomas's debut novel delivers on two fronts: a work of historical fiction that brings to life a gripping time and an intricate mystery that keeps you guessing until the end. The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery takes place in a dangerous year: 1644. Civil war tears England in two. In a northern city under siege, Thomas's main character, a well-born, conscientious and caring midwife, fearlessly tries to discover who murdered a prominent citizen, no matter what dark secrets she may uncover. Meticulously researched, this fast-paced novel seethes with tension as well as the most poignant of dramas.” ―Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown
“Samuel Thomas delivers a sterling debut full of intelligent research and pithy details wrapped in an intriguing murder mystery, underscoring the harsh realities of life--and murder--in seventeenth century England.” ―Jeri Westerson, author of the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series
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Top Customer Reviews
If you aren't bothered by those things, the writing is good, and it is interesting to know more about the culture, customs and restrictions, especially of women, of the 17th century in England. The author has an innovative idea for the protagonist/investigator and the characters are well drawn.
As The Midwife's Tale introduces widowed, wealthy, and independent midwife Bridget Hodgson to us, as well as her supporting characters of maid Martha and Hodgson's nephew Will, we learn about how they all came to be in their respective situations in York, the state of the citizens, and takes us en route with them as they solve a murder mystery.
In The Harlot's Tale, the novel picks right up in their ongoing lives, giving us a brief update, as well minor (but more than enough) details about who the characters are in case someone picks it up to read without reading The Midwife's Tale. But it doesn't at all make the book seem wordy or redundant for those who did read the first book, either. In my opinion, he does a nice job of setting the story and is fast getting to the plot of The Harlot's Tale. I definitely think you could read this second book without even reading the first (though reading the whole series will certainly show a progression and give more depth to the series).
I LOVED The Harlot's Tale even more than his first book. The writing seemed more carefree, as if he was more at ease with himself as fictional writer. He seemed more willing to be open about the social issues of the day, namely the inclusion of fundamentalist Christians who began giving roadside sermons and cracking down on sinners at this time. Isn't this the main source of all angst in English cities of the past? Trying to rid the area of whores and pox by telling women they are sinners seems to be one of the most talked about issues in history. Maybe eventually it's because of Jack the Ripper immortalizing the situation for everyone. Well, long before Jack came, Christians tried to rid the cities of whores by condemning them even further than their already lowly status. Thomas does an excellent job within the story of allowing us to see the circumstances through the eyes of women who lived in poor conditions without a husband and had to sell their bodies in order to survive. He allows his protagonist Bridget to be rather religiously impartial, even though her law enforcer brother-in-law is not. Thomas has her character weighing both sides of the coin, which I always think is a great way to get readers to think on important issues and break down judgemental barriers.
When a harlot is gruesomely murdered in a strange death scene in the novel, it's as if the Old Testament of the Bible is being acted out to represent their sin. Bridget, Martha, and Will take to their detective work again, all the while uncovering heartfelt emotions for the reader (well, this reader) as to the plight of those women who were forced to work as prostitutes just to feed their children. Why were the men never taken to task for their abhorrent behavior? No demand, no supply right? That's the way I see it. Many times these women had no other choice. Those Christian women with money who tried to preach a better way to them didn't understand that most of them KNEW it was wrong, and why, and didn't even like doing it themselves. Who would? But as a line in the book said, words don't feed children. I really like how Bridget always has compassion for them as she holds men accountable for having bastard children and then leaving them to starve. At any rate, I think Thomas handled this issue extremely well and I applaud him as a man for genuinely being able to channel a strong female character as a male author. He has a very uncanny knowledge of women's emotions and desires and it all adds to his well-developed characters as well as to the social message of his books.
Thomas' mystery novel was fast-moving, intelligent, emotional, gritty, and I didn't want to put it down. It moved much faster and was written with more finesse even than his first. I am beyond excited to read the third in his series next year. Bridget is a perfectionist at everything she does, whether it be delivering babies or solving a murder, and as I reader I felt as if I was bustling around the city with her and Martha. She has her own fears and nightmares (and grief) behind the scenes which really softened her more in this novel and as I reader I could connect with her even further than before.
Thomas is a historian and his research on midwives is unparalleled. His intricate details of her work as a midwife in this series is captivating. Overall, he creates a world for us that makes it easy to join in as we read, even though we could never imagine what it might have been like to live in it.
I am eager to recommend The Harlot's Tale to fans of English mysteries set in the mid -1600s. If you like Sherlock Holmes, switch up the protagonists and try your hand at reading about a female midwife who stumbles upon becoming a detective of sorts and finds she not only rather feels it a duty, but an intense desire within herself to help women in need. As she delivers babies in to the Old World with precision, she also pieces together puzzles of death and mayhem. It's absolutely a series not to be missed!
I was provided a copy of the book for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. See more at [...]
I could not put this book down. Lady Bridget is the the main character, but her sidekick, Martha is my favorite. She really brings fun to the story. You never know what will come out of her mouth next.
I thought the book to be great! I can not wait to see what adventures Lady Bridget and Martha get into the next book of the series and what else Sam Thomas comes up with.