FICTION

The Last Hours

Mira: Harlequin. Aug. 2018. 544p. ISBN 9780778369318. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488095306. F
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When a strange illness decimates the countryside in her husband's absence, Lady Anne of Develish is determined to do whatever she must to protect her serfs. Despite the Black Death's horrors, Anne is pleased to have the opportunity to enact the compassionate policies she has long favored. Her spoiled daughter Eleanor threatens the community's safety at every turn, however, and faithful steward Thaddeus must soon lead the manor's young sons into the dangerous world in search of crucial supplies. Edgar Award-winning author Walters (The Sculptress) is a well-respected crime writer, but her first full foray into historical fiction (after A Dreadful Murder) is disappointing. Lady Anne and Thaddeus hold blatantly anachronistic views that will irk historical purists, and the portrayal of both protagonists as perfect and almost universally adored quickly grows tiresome. Thanks to the characters' early withdrawal to inside the manor walls, the plague itself mostly takes its toll offstage, rendering the story much less exciting, and an abrupt cliff-hanger ending after more than 500 pages is more frustrating than suspenseful.
VERDICT Readers looking for gripping novels about the Black Plague would do better to pick up Ken Follett's World Without End or Connie Willis's The Doomsday Book.

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