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The Harlot's Tale: A Midwife Mystery (The Midwife's Tale) Paperback – December 16, 2014
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“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
About the Author
SAMUEL THOMAS teaches history at University School near Cleveland, Ohio. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published academic articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his wife and two children.
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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.
Some people might think this is a minor quibble, but I disagree. Character timelines are important. To me, it's frustrating when this sort of thing happens. We trust the author to be reliable about the past events in the lives of his creations. If I can't trust him to remember how old his heroine and her child are/were, how can I trust him when I think I have found a clue to the mystery? It's important to feel you are in good hands with an author.
Still, I liked this book enough to order the next one in the series.
Oh, and I'm a little skeptical that an ordinary (albeit wealthy) household in mid-seventeenth-century England would have had an enclosed oven for baking (Hannah and Martha are often emerging from the kitchen wiping their hands after having been baking something delicious.) It was my understanding that only castles and extremely opulent mansions would have had baking ovens. Most people cooked over an open hearth.