Spooky; last month for some reason unbeknown to myself I decided to reread The Chameleon’s Shadow. A peculiar decision given my TBR shelves. Maybe it was some weird, karmic, sixth sense thing because at that time I was totally ignorant of the imminent publication of The Last Hours.
Way back in the nineties and the noughties my Mum and I had this unspoken kind of competition as to who could get a hold of a copy of the new Minette Walters first. Who ever did read it then lent it to the other. Oh, would that she were here still, for me to gloatingly pass on this copy of Ms. Walters first full length novel for a decade.
The worst, most cruel thing about this book was to get to the end and find that the next volume will not be available until October 2018. 2018!? I might be dead by then! From that you will gather that I enjoyed this novel. Yes. I did.
I began it with trepidation. The queen of the psychological thriller had changed genres! Mad or unswervingly courageous? And she has switched to historical fiction. Could two genres be more diametrically opposed? No, I don’t think so. I think history throws up a wealth of criminals and psychos! And I enjoy historical fiction very much so I was excited.
And I really didn’t want to put this down. It’s a lengthy tome and at times I thought it was overlong. But that was my only reservation. There were a couple of lapses into a more contemporary vernacular but that’s me nit picking. It’s gripping, so well written and researched that you are drawn into the medieval era from the first few lines. The sights and sounds are palpable. So, too, is the fear of contracting the plague. The mark of a good historical fiction writer is where you leave behind this modern, digital world and become completely enveloped in a different lifestyle. You almost start thinking medievally!
But despite switching genres the essence of Minette Walter’s writing endures. The style is recognisable as are the characterisations. A wealth of diverse characters that are quite simply believable. Thaddeus Thurkell is the new Jon Snow! And you find yourself seeking the wisdom of Lady Anne as you read. People with secrets, people with jealousies, people seeking vengeance. All against the backdrop of the Black Death in Dorset and how one demesne protects themselves against this scourge with one aim - to survive. But the survival of all is broader than merely staying healthy in body. Surviving life itself is the ultimate aim.
It’s an epic novel and in no way is it concluded here. It ends at a reasonably comfortable place but, oh, there’s so much more I want to know! Is there such a thing as an advance, advance reading copy? If so, may I have one. NOW!