I have not read anything by Minette Walters before but I was excited to read her novel about the Black Death, set in fourteenth-century Dorset. The writer has plainly undertaken a great deal of research on the time period and the plague, and writes an interesting and authentic account of life on a Dorset demesne.
Yet I struggled to finish the book. Authenticity is undermined by imposing modern attitudes to class, gender and religion: I wanted insight on how people may have viewed the world at that time, not to read a reflection of my own 21st-century attitudes. My problem with the characters in The Last Hours is not just that some of them hold anachronistic views, sadly I found none of them likeable or relatable. Sir Richard is a villain with not one redeeming feature. Our heroes, Lady Anne and Thaddeus, are we are told good and kind but their speech and thoughts often reveal them to be cold and critical. Anne can never ever speak to 14-year old Eleanor without rebuking her weaknesses or similarity to her father, and this becomes increasingly irritating to read. Eleanor’s is a problematic character: she is shown to be mean-tempered and sadistic but we are also told that she has mental health problems. She has been left to her father’s malign influence and whims and nobody, least of all Anne, seems to have any sympathy for her. Eleanor certainly is written as bad in thought and deed but she has long been written off by the other characters for her wickedness, and I am unhappy with a child being condemned in this way.
I received an ARC of this ebook free in return for an honest review. UK publication: 2 November 2017 by Allen & Unwin.