Monday, March 19, 2018

Searcher of the Dead: A Bess Ellyott Mystery

Good Morrow!  The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman will be released tomorrow (03/20) along with Beneath the Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer and The Library, the Witch and the Warder by Mindy Klasky.  So many new books coming out this spring!

Searcher of the Dead by Nancy Herriman is the first book A Bess Ellyott Mystery series that is set in the late sixteenth century (1593).  Elizabeth “Bess” Ellyott is a widow, herbalist and healer who moved from London to Wiltshire one year ago after the death of her husband.  Only Bess and her servant, Joan know that Martin Ellyott was murdered, and Bess hopes that the killer has not followed her to her new home. Bess returns home to where she lives with her brother, Robert Marshall, after attending to a sick child.  Waiting for Bess is her sister, Dorothie who is very distraught.  Dorothie’s husband, Fulke Crofton failed to return home that evening after his journey to the nearby town of Devizes.  She feels that Fulke has come to harm and wants them out searching immediately.  Since dark is approaching, they convince her to wait until the morn.  The next day Fulke is found suspended from a tree and the coroner’s jury quickly rules the death a suicide.  In the dark of night, Bess examines the body to confirm that Fulke was murdered.  But she will need tangible proof to get the coroner’s decision reversed.  Constable Christopher “Kit” Harwoode joins Bess in the search for the truth.  The pair ask discreet questions in their quest to uncover Fulke’s killer.  Could it be the person lurking in the old priory?  Is Fulke’s murder related to Martin’s?  Travel back in time to when Queen Elizabeth I was reigning to pursue a killer in Searcher of the Dead.

Searcher of the Dead is an Elizabethan mystery.  Nancy Herriman captured the era with her descriptions of the clothing, housing, people’s attitudes and superstitions, how the characters spoke, and the way of life.  The author included many interesting historical details that will fascinate readers.  Priest holes, fines for not attending church every week, and Queen Elizabeth’s torturer-Richard Topcliffe and his cruel tactics are just a few of the interesting tidbits.  The historical details overwhelm all else at times (heavy handed is the best way to describe it).  I found the Searcher of the Dead to have a very slow pace thanks to the writing style and amount of detail included.  The writing was stilted.  I can understand the dialogue being awkward due to the way people spoke in the sixteenth century.  However, the rest of the book needed a less formal writing style (it lacked an ease).  It needed to be written in a way that would draw the readers in and keep them engaged (instead of drifting off to sleep until my dog started licking my face).  The lack of action does not help matters either.  The mystery of Fulke’s murder was compelling, and it contained some good clues along with misdirection.  Many readers will be surprised by the identity of the person who committed the reprehensible act.  I wish the author had not repeated the same details so many times throughout the book (Bess is obstinate and the details of the case for example).  There is a romance blossoming between Bess and Kit that I am sure will progress in future books (they do make a good couple). I was satisfied with how the author wrapped up the storylines at the end of the book. Searcher of the Dead will appeal to those who are fascinated with the Elizabethan era.

I hope you have found my review helpful.  Beneath the Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer is the book I will be sharing with you tomorrow.  May you have a surprising day.  Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

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