The Winter Siege, by D.W. Bradbridge, was a terrific winterized read for me living here in the polar vortex for the last week or two. It’s so cold I could almost feel the pain of the villagers of Nantwich, who had to endure such freezing weather elements while also living in fear and turmoil that was all around them. The village, which was a hot pocket for the 17th century feud between King Charles I and Parliament, is ripe with tension. It’s not surprising that someone gets murdered.
And that’s the key to what the novel is really all about–the murder mystery. Though Bradbridge has certainly done an immense amount of local research on the Nantwich subject, as well as the strife between the Crown and Parliament, the book doesn’t have a heavy read to it. It’s only used to build a foundation in which he creates a “what if” and “whodunnit” scenario that engages and intrigues the reader. I was pleasantly surprised how much his mystery lured me in. He creates a sleuth protagonist in Constable Cheswis, who seems already overburdened by the happenings of his own life and preparing for civil war around him, yet he finds a way to widdle away at the possible reason why his townsfolk are being killed and marked as traitors. Bradbridge creates a believable and authentic character who I found myself urging on in his pursuit, while also trying to figure out the clues myself almost like I was his deputy.
These 17th century mysteries, especially those surrounding a military occurrence such as this siege, can be hard to focus as sometimes historical detail can overburden the mystery. However, Bradbridge does a phenomenal job of holding back just enough so that we can’t guess right out and yet also enough so that we aren’t bored. He never lets his historical education of the time period overpower his plot. The historical background was interesting though as well and his plot thick, well-done, and engaging. I was turning the pages very fast and ending up reading more in several sittings than I had really meant to as I wanted to find out what was happening next!! By the end, I was surprised and satisfied how he had wrapped it up!
I like how he uses the tight quarter fit of this volatile situation and turns it into an intense novel. As we can feel tempers flare, political unrest heighten, and people changing sides to save themselves, we begin to understand how things can easily get out of hand and no one can be trusted in Nantwich.
I’ve been enjoying many historical mystery novels of the 17th century lately and this one lines high up on the list. I certainly enjoyed my corner of the couch with blanket and comfy socks as I was captivated by The Winter Siege. I would highly recommend this book for any reader who wants a historical mystery that holds much more content and weight than most, especially since he utilizes a true historical event as the foundation. I can’t wait to read more mysteries with Daniel Cheswis at the helm!
The Winter Siege, Synopsis~
1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.
While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.
When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.
He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.
With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.
When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?
Author D.W. Bradbridge, Biography~
D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.
“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.
“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?
“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”