Wednesday, March 7, 2018

ARC Review: Searcher of the Dead by Nancy Herriman

Searcher of the Dead
Author: Nancy Herriman
Series: A Bess Ellyott Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (March 13, 2018)

Description: Herbalist and widow Bess Ellyott tries to escape the loss of her husband in Elizabethan London only to find that death is following her, and she may very well be next in Searcher of the Dead, the first in a new historical mystery series by Nancy Herriman.

Living amid the cultural flowering, religious strife, and political storms of Tudor England, Bess Ellyott is an herbalist, a widow, and a hunted woman. She fled London after her husband was brutally murdered, but the bucolic town in the countryside where she lands will offer her no solace. She still doesn’t know who killed her husband, but she knows one thing: The murderer is still out there. This becomes all too clear when Bess’s brother-in-law, a prosperous merchant, is himself found dead―dangling from a tree, an apparent suicide.

But Bess doesn’t believe that for a moment, and nor do her neighbors. Competition is cutthroat in the 17th century, and word around the town holds that the dead man is a victim of rival merchants scheming to corner the wool market. Bess, though, is convinced the killer is out to destroy her family.

Town constable Christopher Harwoode will cross members of his own family to help Bess find the killer―whose next target may very well be Queen Elizabeth I―in this unshakably gripping, devilishly unpredictable series debut that will delight fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory.

My Thoughts: Bess Ellyot is a herbalist and a widow who has fled from London after her husband was poisoned. She is living with her brother in a small town. When her sister's husband is found dead, she doesn't believe that he committed suicide but that is what the crowner decides. A verdict of suicide means that his belongings are forfeited to the crown and the church leaving his widow destitute.

Bess doesn't believe that it was suicide and, along with constable Kit Harwoode, investigates to prove that he was murdered and to find the murderer. Since her brother-in-law was a haughty, quarrelsome man, potential murderers aren't hard to find. He informed on the local Langham family for being closet Catholics and sheltering priests which led to the senior Langham dying in prison and leaving the son Bennett Langham angry with him. He also argued with fellow merchants about the quality of his goods and the major local landowner about selling a property the landowner wanted to expand his mill.

This was a difficult time in England with Elizabeth trying to secure her throne and sending out inquisitors to find and eliminate the remaining Catholics and the Jesuit priest she assumed were trying to foment a revolution. The inquisitors were free to use torture to find the truth and Bess runs afoul of one since she has been to the Langham's home in her role as a healer. Bess's niece also fancies herself in love with Bennett Langham which puts their whole family at risk.

This was an engaging mystery set in a time period I know almost nothing about. It was interesting to learn about the setting. I liked the growing relationship between Kit and Bess. I also thought the mystery was well done.

Favorite Quote:
Truth be told, however, she had her doubts about the constable's willingness to be thorough. After all, his cousin stood to gain from Fulke's suicide. Sir Walter Howe may be displeased to have those goods -- which included a warehouse of fine wool, despite Arthur Stamford's claims otherwise -- snatched away by something so inconvenient as the truth. So, what would Kit Harwoode do -- choose family obligations or the proper execution of justice?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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