In a departure from posting pictures, I have decided to share some of my recent reads with you. I have recently had the opportunity to read several first novels. I'm not sure where I obtained the recommendations, but they were pretty spot on in both cases. Although each is technically a murder mystery, neither is exactly in the Agatha Christie whodunit genre, as much as I like that type of novel.
The first is The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau. Set in King Henry the Eighth's reign, it comes complete with a burning at the stake, an incarceration in the Tower of London, and the closing of Catholic monasteries. It is this background which made this unusual mystery so appealing for me.
The protagonist is Joanna Stafford, who is training to become a nun in a Dominican priory. After an unfortunate turn of events, she was held in The Tower until, under secrecy and threat, she was sent back to the priory where she had been training to become a nun in order to ferret out the location of a supposedly powerful relic — the crown of Athelstan. During her search, a murder occurs, the solution of which becomes an important part of the novel.
Set in that fascinating period of history, I enjoyed the book very, very much.
The other debut novel that I was privileged to have recommended is The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, a Scot who sets her novel in nineteenth century, backwoods Canada. I know that sounds pretty dull, but I loved this tale, which in addition to history and geography has an interesting plot populated by interesting characters. Briefly: Mrs Ross finds a local fur trapper murdered in his cabin. When her son is implicated, she sets out on a winter trek in an effort to both find and exonerate him.
There is much going on in this story in addition to the mystery and geography. There is the venerable Hudson Bay Company, frontier justice, an odd religious sect, sexual inclinations, native Canadians and just a number of interesting characters and interpersonal conflicts.
I didn't expect to like The Tenderness of Wolves as much as The Crown but was pleasantly surprised to like it even more, and that is not to belittle The Crown in any way.
At this point, I must drop a teaser and tell you that I was also privileged to read yet another first novel in recent weeks that was also pretty doggone mesmerizing. However, since it still hasn't been approved for publication, Mum's the word.