by Minette Walters
Series: Black Death #1
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
When the Black Death enters England through the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is—or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness.
But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from the manor when news of this pestilence reaches her, she looks for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. She decides to bring her serfs inside the safety of the moat that surrounds her manor house, then refuses entry to anyone else, even her husband.
Lady Anne makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs...until food stocks run low. The nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat again?
Compelling and suspenseful, The Last Hours is a riveting tale of human ingenuity and endurance set against the worst pandemic in history. In Lady Anne of Develish—leader, savior, heretic—Walters has created her most memorable heroine to date.
The Last Hours by Minette Walters takes near the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348 where it is believed the Black Death (plague) entered England. With her husband away, Lady Anne of Develish along with her serfs take drastic measures to ensure their safety. Isolation, discord and danger made for a clever tale.
Imagine if you would a dark mysterious plague coming to your door. It doesn’t discriminate and none survive. Throughout Dorsetshire whole communities are fall to the disease. Thanks to her husband’s need for grandeur a moat surrounds the Manor of Develish. While it’s true, Lady Anne thought the moat foolish, she uses it to keep out the infected and moves all of her servants, serfs, animals and food storage into the Manor. Quarters are cramped, but the practices Lasy Anne has instilled in Develish help her and her people.
Maybe I am twisted or perhaps nutters, but books surrounding the Black Death (bubonic plague) or any plague fascinate me. Since this story derives from a historical plague, I knew I had to read it. It pleased me that Walters did her research offering the reader a sense of realism.
The Last Hours was a fascinating, rich, character driven tale that held me captive from page one. The plague was terrifying. The local priests preached repentance and claimed it was a cleansing.
Walters presented an interesting tale that not only highlighted the bleak, often dark aspects of this plague that ravished over twenty million people. We as the reader bear witness to the things that happen under this isolated roof. Twists and developments kept me engaged.
Walters sheds light on the inequality of the period, not just for women, but for serfs, the ruling class and everyone in-between. Lady Anne was an extraordinarily strong woman was ahead of her time and well learned. How she came to be married to such a heinous creature is an atrocity but if you ask the serfs of Develish, they would say it was a blessing.
I loved all the tidbits from hierarchy to how the plague spread. It was fascinating to witness the changes within the manor as food shortages began and key characters worked to undermine Lady Anne.
The characters were unique, developed and truly propelled this story. Gyles, Thaddeus and Isabelle were among my favorite characters. Walters did an excellent job of endearing key characters and allowing me to despise others. A few turns of events surprised me and look forward to returning to the manor.
One cannot deny the research that must have gone into the creating of this tale I believe it is the first in a three book trilogy. While some, may find these tidbits of information boring, I devour them and appreciated the attention to detail. The setting relied heavily on the characters to move the plot forward but it was executed brilliantly and without informational dumps.
This ends on a cliffhanger, it isn’t bad but enough I am eager to see what happens. The second book, The Turn of Midnight, is due out in March 2019. Fans of rich historical fiction and character driven novels will find The Last Hours an engaging, brilliantly written tale.
[bctt tweet=”The Last Hours by Minette Walters, was a fascinating, rich, character driven tale that held me captive from page one #historical #mustread” username=”kimbacaffeinate”]
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I love the sound of this one. I love tales about the plague and this sounds like it was very well written. I will have to pick this one up! Great review!
Teresa Mary Rose
Oh I definitely like the premise for this one! I haven’t read a historical in the longest time, but I am intrigued by this one. Great review!
I cannot wait for the next book Teresa. I hope you decide to pick it up.
This sounds like one I could devour! I enjoy historical novels and they certainly deserve the detail that they often include. This is a new to me author so thanks for introducing her here. Hope you’re having a good summer, Kim! Sorry, I’ve been away a bit here and there and not enjoying my blog time as much. 🙁
Hi Lisa, It’s been a crazy summer. Glad to hear you are well and I hope you decide to try this.
I have been reading more stories which are historical fiction this year. I suppose it goes along with fantasy, which also can be a historical setting. I’m listening to The Calculating Stars (set in the 1950s) and it’s fascinating too. I just listened to The Wolves of Winter, which is science fiction about a flu epidemic where most die worldwide. Plague or flu or disease type stories are great because there are scientists and suspense about who will live and die. I’d rather it was contained in one book though. Anne – Books of My Heart
I agree, although with this time period not much was understood about these plagues. Both books you mentioned sound good. I love books with science fiction weaved in
Plague type stories ad movies intrigue me too.
Glad I am not alone.
Okay you definitely have my attention and no it doesn’t surprise me that you like this, it is after all an apocalyptic event and we all know how you love those, zombies included. So enjoying one that’s real isn’t far fetched. And now you make me want it. however, I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers where they make you wait a year til the next installment. Just how big a cliffhanger are we talking about here? Thanks Kim, fab review!
Tis true, you know me so well 🙂 Not a straight cliff, but enough threads left dangling that we can’t wait to see what happens next.
I used to read a lot of historical fiction and started working it back in lately. This looks good. I totally get you about the Black Plague though – it is fascinating. Have you read The Dress Lodger? It isn’t the BP time, but it’s really good and takes place during the cholera epidemic of 1831,
I have not, but I listened to a sample and added it to my wishlist!
Brandee @ (un)Conventional Bookworms
This sounds like my kind of read, Kimberly. And if your nutters for enjoying this type of storyline, I’m right there with you. The historical aspects and details as well as a strong character-driven story involving the plague all mean one thing…I’ll be picking up this one. 😉 Thanks for putting it on my radar.
Ooo look at you Mrs. (Un)Conventional Bookworm!!
Is this one of those teary-eyesd books where a reader needs to have a box of tissues handy?
No not at all.
Well this sounds interesting. I haven’t read a book on the plague in years. This one sounds fascinating, and I do like attention to detail and historic tidbits. I am going to add this to my listening list, but push it closer to next year. I hate cliffhangers.
I know you hate cliffies and this could have had a huge one, but we get a little epilogue that saves us from falling completely. It just has me excited to discover what happens next.
Rita @ View From the Books
I also have this book but haven’t read it yet so I ,kind of skimmed your review but could tell you really enjoyed it. I read another book about plague last year (name escapes me atm) and am interested in nonfiction major events in history and how people persevere in the face of them, and also well-written historical fiction too. I’ve read two books by this author in her suspense thriller genre and my SIL has read all of her books. I’ll have to ask her if she’s interested in the plague also, lol, sounds weird to say that out loud!
Bwhahaha.. it does sound weird to say that, but it is true. I read one last year set in Philadelphia and loved it.
Crystal @ Lost in Storyland
I love historical fiction, especially character driven ones. This sounds like a great read 🙂
I like dark and twisted themes so this one intrigues me. Great review. Would love to read this as well 🙂
I hope you do. I would love to hear your thoughts on it 🙂
You’re not nutters for enjoying books about the plague. It’s not something we experienced ourselves, so it’s hard for us to comprehend. Books like this that are written well, and by authors that do their research, can offer us a perspective we would have never known otherwise. It may be fictional, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a historical fiction, so I just might have to check this one out!
— Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?
I am looking forward to the next book. Thanks Lindsi.
This sounds like a fascinating book. I love historical fiction and haven’t read any adult HF about this time period- I have read a middle grade story about the Black Death and really enjoyed it. I am glad the cliffhanger isn’t too bad- but I am happy to know about it because maybe I will start this one closer to when book 2 comes out. 🙂
Yes. I am excited to see what unfolds.
Very intriguing that the book focuses on the time Black Death enters England. I’m also in love with that cover. Thanks for sharing your post for this one, Kim. I’m always interested in trying out new historical fiction.
I think you would find the dynamics of their isolation interesting Nick.
A very interesting period to write about. Tho I hoped that Lord did get what he deserved too
Spoilers darling 🙂
that’s interesting mainly with this period too!
The set up with the manor and characters truly was fascinating.
I just finished a historical novel too. I don’t think you’re weird for being interested in the darker subject matter either…it is only fiction after all 🙂
Ah, no fictional matter based on true horrors draws me in Ethan.