England -- fiction
When Philip and his brother Francis were small boys, their knightly father and beloved mother were slain in front of them. The enemy soldiers were about to do likewise to the children, when a monk from the neighboring priory intervened, promising God’s wrath would descend on the soldiers should they continue their slaughter of innocents. The soldiers stood down.
For such was the power of the Church in the 12th century that even bloody-minded men-at-arms would take heed of a religious man’s words.
2017 falls during the 100th anniversary of World War I, and The Summer Before the War is the perfect novel to remind us of the world-changing conflict’s impact. In the novel, England is in the midst of fighting the Great War. For the small town of Rye in Sussex, all of the moral complexities of that war are realized. Helen Simonson is a master of gentle and sometimes fierce satire in this comedy of manners, as she was in her first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
The first three parts of The Summer Before the War have a lighter tone as the characters are gently satirized for their foibles. There is nostalgia for the Edwardian innocence still left in the town of Rye, but cruel prejudice and gossip also reside in the town. All the characters seem like good people, but Helen Simonson cleverly reveals their flaws. Beatrice Nash enters the scene as the first female Latin “master” for the local grammar school. Beatrice has recently lost her father, whom she idolized, but she will not bow to the dictates and restrictions of how her family and society want her to lead her life, so she must earn her way.
It takes a serious case to bring Scotland Yard detectives to the countryside, but, without doubt, that is what the local Bobbies have on their hands. Detective John Madden, a hollow-eyed veteran of the Great War, has a knack for discovering the truth behind baffling crimes, even if his manner leaves some of the more politically savvy officers cold. In the case of the violent murder of a fine, upstanding family, the horrors presented are disconcertingly familiar to him, even if they do not match their otherwise bucolic village setting.
The mystery behind Rennie Airth’s River of Darkness unfolds in a time when class distinctions were still very real, but the 1920s was also a period of greater freedom, when some women, such as the village’s lovely Dr. Helen Blackwell, might discover other outlets for their interests and passions. All the while, men who had survived the war might not survive the battles that raged in their minds. Psychiatry was still in its infancy, and fingerprints, as well as casts of footprints and tire tracks, were the common limits of scientific investigation. The rest was up to logic, hard experience, curiosity, and intuition.
Dr. Ruth Galloway, heroine of Elly Griffiths’ popular set of mysteries, has been called to the rural parish of Little Walsingham to investigate a mysterious murder. Galloway, a devout atheist, has managed to avoid Walsingham for the last 17 years since she’s been in Norfolk. The town is crawling with religious fanatics and devoted Christians.
Orphans Molly and her younger brother Kip are looking for work away from their home in famine-stricken Ireland. They find it at the Windsor estate, an isolated, sprawling house in England that is a lot more than it seems.
As they work and live with the Windsors, Molly and Kip begin to discover that the atmosphere of the old, crumbling mansion is slowly taking the life force of the once-cheerful family of four.
Two years after the infamous and hideous Black Plague swept the continent of Europe, 18-year-old Oswald de Lacy finds himself the Lord of Somershill.
Although he does not wish to claim the title, he has no other choice since the Sickness took his father and two older brothers, leaving him to deal with a crumbling estate; an overbearing, paranoid mother; an unmarried, spoiled sister; and extremely fearful peasants.
What teenage girl has not sighed over the plight of Jane Eyre and the love story in Wuthering Heights? The novels contain “the collective imagination” poured into them by millions of teenage girls. In The Madwoman Upstairs, narrator Samantha Whipple is the last Brontë heir. She is related to three of the most famous women writers, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, but she has a contentious relationship with them. Gothic and imaginative, The Madwoman Upstairs is a tribute to the Brontës.
A chance encounter with the legendary Sherlock Holmes alters the life trajectory of fifteen-year-old Mary Russell. In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King, Mary literally bumps into Holmes while roaming the hills near her cottage. After the initial awkward run-in, the two are immediately drawn to each other’s insatiable curiosity and superior intellect. As both of Mary’s parents died in a horrific accident, her friendship with Holmes is a welcome respite from her days with a cold, disapproving aunt.
He: likes foxhunting on his fine stallion Mephistopheles, whiskey & soda, but above all else, cricket. His form is handsome and athletic. His mind uncluttered with much in the way of philosophy or common sense.
She: enjoys fashion, researching/knowing everything, and breaking men’s hearts. Well, she doesn’t really like it. Simply an occupational hazard when one is such a beautiful breath-sapper. But what this to-the-manor-born brother and sister like most is solving murders. To catch the “coffinators” is their aim.
Twelve-year-old Adrian is too small and sickly to be a warrior. What's more, he is an albino. Due to his pale skin and white hair, some villagers think that he is a demon. The other kids call him Badger when he puts dirt under his eyes to fight the intense glare of the sun. If everything goes according to Adrian's new plan, though, people will soon be calling him The Badger Knight.