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Wednesday 16 October 2019

‘A Hidden Life’ by Mia Emilie (The Watchers Trilogy)

Published by Mia Emilie,
19 August 2019.
ISBN 978-1-9161399-0-9 (PB)

This book concerns a fascinating, real life, unsolved historical mystery - the death in 1560 of Amy Dudley (some other sources call her Amy Robsart). We plunge into the story when Sir Samuel Banks, the Sheriff of Oxford, comes to see the body of Lady Dudley which is laid out in a cellar of Cumnor Place.  It is his job, firstly, to find a jury to ascertain the cause of death.    Sam hopes to hand the matter over to the Justice of the Peace, Reynard, but the man says he is ill and gives the investigation back to Sam.  Sam has been a royal spy and death doctor and his skills in these regards are valuable as he tries to discover the cause of the death of Amy Dudley and whether someone was responsible for her death.

The way lives are lived in the 16th century is beautifully shown; the ordinary folk suffer harsh conditions -  wearing no shoes, being dirty and being totally dependent on the masters for food and lodging of the rudest kind, while the men of the upper echelons have to travel by horseback considerable distances in foul weather and be prepared to fight those who attack or traduce them.   The political machinations within the Court and parts of society are dangerous waters for gentlemen to wade through.  Those who are embroiled in high level politics have to have a group of men to use in protection or to attack other people.   Sam’s ability in a fight is a very valuable attribute which he has to use fairly frequently. 

Mia really illustrates the totally different attitudes and circumstances of the 16th century to our own while showing our common humanity over relationships within and outside families.   Realism in her descriptions helps to get that period feel.  She provides details in passing that illuminate the Elizabethan era, for example,  Hugh, the Undersheriff wears his writing desk - that is he has hanging round his neck a container with parchment, ink and pen - all men carry daggers, and there is the job of rat catcher in large houses and Oxford Colleges.  Whatever your status in society there is common ground in the experiences of deaths of children - in this case from the pox.

This is a rollicking story - exciting and frightening incidents abound as Sam forges on in the hope of solving the central mystery of Amy Dudley’s death.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is Mia’s first book and it is the first of the Watchers trilogy which will consider Amy’s death as three investigators in different eras try to solve the mystery.

Mia Emilie lives in South West England with her family, rascally dog and a huge collection of books. Having studied creative writing from degree to PhD level, Mia was awarded her doctorate last year and is now a full-time crime writer. A Hidden Life, is her debut novel and the first instalment in, The Watchers, trilogy.  

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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