Creep­ing plague

Crime writer tries hand at his­tor­i­cal fic­tion

The Daily Examiner - - RELAX - — Corinna Hente

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

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