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Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Almanack by Martine Bailey

Published by Severn House,
31 January 2019.
ISBN 978-0-7278-8863-1 (HB)

From the beginning this book has unusual features.  Authentic Eighteenth-century riddles preface each chapter and provide interesting puzzles (all the answers are provided at the end!).  The title The Almanack also holds great significance as the story reveals.   Almanacks were highly popular books like Old Moore’s almanac; they contained predictions for actual dates couched in ambiguous terms rather like Star sign predictions in our own day.   Riddles and other items varied according to the particular almanac you bought and would be related to your part of the country.
The setting here is a Cheshire village in 1752 when Tabitha Hart returns from an exciting life in London to find that her mother has died.  Tabitha is returning at her mother’s request but doesn’t know why her mother was agitated.  Nor does Tabitha believe in the villagers’ view that her mother’s mind was disordered and that she died by drowning.  A visitor to the village, Nat Starling, joins with Tabitha to investigate what happened to her mother.  Both of them have their own secrets.   More macabre events occur and the attitudes of society at that time are shown in all their horrors for those without privilege - from the vicar receiving tithes from the poor to the lord of the manor trying to exert droit de seigneur.   The year 1752 holds significance as the year when the calendar was amended to bring it into line with the rest of Europe and 11 days were omitted in September.
Martine has a mastery of her material and the whole panoply of Eighteenth society seen from a northern village is revealed.   The mysteries at the heart of the tale are gradually elucidated successfully.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Martine Bailey has written two previous historical crime novels -
An Appetite for Violets and The Penny Heart.

Martine Bailey entered cookery contest with no idea it would lead to a life-changing obsession with French cuisine. As an amateur cook, Martine won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion, cooking at Le Meurice in Paris. Inspired by eighteenth-century household books of recipes, An Appetite for Violets invites readers to feast on the past as a sharp-witted young cook is taken on a mysterious trip to Italy. In pursuit of authenticity Martine studied with food historian Ivan Day and experienced Georgian food and fashion at firsthand with an historic re-enactment society. Martine lives in Cheshire, England and Auckland, New Zealand. She is married with one son. The almanack is her latest book. Published in January 2019.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries. 

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