Taking their places on my 'must read' shelf are three books about times past.
I wrote here about Hue and Cry, the first in Shirley McKay's Hew Cullan mysteries set in 16th. century Scotland, and though I've failed to keep pace with the series that's certainly not through lack of interest. The fifth book - Queen & Country - has just come out, and it's billed as "thrilling to established fans of the series, and an excellent introduction to new readers. Ideal for those who like C.J. Sansom and Hilary Mantel, the Hew Cullan mysteries are a fantastic addition to the historical crime fiction canon." I enjoyed the first book enormously and I'm looking forward to picking up Hew's story where I left off.
Gregory Dowling is a British academic and novelist living in Venice and his new book, Ascension, is set in the city in 1749. It is the first in a series, and has the imprimatur of every woman's favourite Venetian Francesco da Mosto who says of it, "A special thriller set in the Venetian past - its colours and intrigues so vividly described." The book begins with a young tour guide, Alvise Marangon, offering to help an English Grand Tourist, but this leads to his becoming embroiled in blackmail and conspiracy. Forcibly recruited into the city's powerful secret service to investigate a baffling murder, Alvise turns out to be a gifted spy, and as Venice prepares for the Feast of the Ascension, the most important celebration of the year, it seems only he holds the key to unlocking the mystery and preventing bloody mayhem on the streets.
Now to some non-fiction and The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff, which will be out here next month. "It began in 1692, over a raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's daughter started to scream and convulse. The panic spread quickly: neighbours accused neighbours, husbands accused wives, parents and children one another. It ended less than a year later, but not before nineteen men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death. As psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal, as maginificently written as it is deeply researched, The Witches provides a startling, fresh account of one of the most mysterious episodes in history: the Salem witch trials of 1692."