Crime writer tries hand at historical fiction
THE Black Death quietly entered England at the Port of Weymouth in 1348 and wiped out about 50% of the population.
The Last Hours focuses on a small estate in Dorsetshire as the first hints of the arrival of the pneumonic plague are being felt.
The hated Sir Richard takes a journey to arrange a marriage for his 14-year-old daughter, Eleanor, to a nearby estate already touched by the plague. His wife, Lady Anne, hears the rumours and quarantines the estate of Develish and its occupants from the outside world, hoping to stop the disease entering.
As it gets worse, there are other threats — from rogue soldiers and people desperate for help — as well as heightened tensions inside the self-imposed prison. Lady Anne faces some big questions. When will it be safe to emerge? And what does a community that has lost most of its population look like?
Walters abandoned crime writing a decade ago after selling 25 million books and seems certain for a return to the best-seller lists via historical fiction. Part two is out next year.
VERDICT: Riveting start to a huge story. THE LAST HOURS, MINETTE WALTERS, ALLEN & UNWIN, RRP $33