Tag Archives: Sam Thomas

The Harlot’s Tale by Sam Thomas Delves into a Mystery Surrounding a Social Issue of 17th Century York

If you like a great historical mystery set in the mid-1600s of York, then I highly recommend Sam Thomas’ midwife mystery series for its superb character development, intriguing mystery, and detailed social and emotional issues of 17th Century England!

The Harlot's TaleThe Harlot’s Tale is the second book in a series by Sam Thomas, with the first being The Midwife’s Tale, and though I recommend both, I’m reviewing The Harlot’s Tale today as it just published earlier this month!  Feel free to see my review of The Midwife’s Tale by clicking HERE.

As The Midwife’s Tale introduces widowed, wealthy, and independent midwife Bridget Hodgson to us, as well as her supporting characters of maid Martha and Hodgson’s nephew Will, we learn about how they all came to be in their respective situations in York, the state of the citizens, and takes us en route with them as they solve a murder mystery.

In The Harlot’s Tale, the novel picks right up in their ongoing lives, giving us a brief update, as well minor (but more than enough) details about who the characters are in case someone picks it up to read without reading The Midwife’s Tale. But it doesn’t at all make the book seem wordy or redundant for those who did read the first book, either. In my opinion, he does a nice job of setting the story and is fast getting to the plot of The Harlot’s Tale. I definitely think you could read this second book without even reading the first (though reading the whole series will certainly show a progression and give more depth to the series).

I LOVED The Harlot’s Tale even more than his first book. The writing seemed more carefree, as if he was more at ease with himself as fictional writer. He seemed more willing to be open about the social issues of the day, namely the inclusion of fundamentalist Christians who began giving roadside sermons and cracking down on sinners at this time. Isn’t this the main source of all angst in English cities of the past? Trying to rid the area of whores and pox by telling women they are sinners seems to be one of the most talked about issues in history. Maybe eventually it’s because of Jack the Ripper immortalizing the situation for everyone. Well, long before Jack came, Christians tried to rid the cities of whores by condemning them even further than their already lowly status.  Thomas does an excellent job within the story of allowing us to see the circumstances through the eyes of women who lived in poor conditions without a husband and had to sell their bodies in order to survive.  He allows his protagonist Bridget to be rather religiously impartial, even though her law enforcer brother-in-law is not. Thomas has her character weighing both sides of the coin, which I always think is a great way to get readers to think on important issues and break down judgemental barriers.

When a harlot is gruesomely murdered in a strange death scene in the novel, it’s as if the Old Testament of the Bible is being acted out to represent their sin. Bridget, Martha, and Will take to their detective work again, all the while uncovering heartfelt emotions for the reader (well, this reader) as to the plight of those women who were forced to work as prostitutes just to feed their children. Why were the men never taken to task for their abhorrent behavior? No demand, no supply right? That’s the way I see it. Many times these women had no other choice. Those Christian women with money who tried to preach a better way to them didn’t understand that most of them KNEW it was wrong, and why, and didn’t even like doing it themselves.  Who would? But as a line in the book said, words don’t feed children. I really like how Bridget always has compassion for them as she holds men accountable for having bastard children and then leaving them to starve. At any rate, I think Thomas handled this issue extremely well and I applaud him as a man for genuinely being able to channel a strong female character as a male author. He has a very uncanny knowledge of women’s emotions and desires and it all adds to his well-developed characters as well as to the social message of his books.

Thomas’ mystery novel was fast-moving, intelligent, emotional, gritty, and I didn’t want to put it down. It moved much faster and was written with more finesse even than his first. I am beyond excited to read the third in his series next year. Bridget is a perfectionist at everything she does, whether it be delivering babies or solving a murder, and as I reader I felt as if I was bustling around the city with her and Martha. She has her own fears and nightmares (and grief) behind the scenes which really softened her more in this novel and as I reader I could connect with her even further than before.

Thomas is a historian and his research on midwives is unparalleled. His intricate details of her work as a midwife in this series is captivating. Overall, he creates a world for us that makes it easy to join in as we read, even though we could never imagine what it might have been like to live in it.

I am eager to recommend The Harlot’s Tale to fans of English mysteries set in the mid -1600s. If you like Sherlock Holmes, switch up the protagonists and try your hand at reading about a female midwife who stumbles upon becoming a detective of sorts and finds she not only rather feels it a duty, but an intense desire within herself to help women in need. As she delivers babies in to the Old World with precision, she also pieces together puzzles of death and mayhem. It’s absolutely a series not to be missed!

The Harlot’s Tale, Synopsis~

The Harlot's TalePublication Date: January 7, 2014
Minotaur Books
Hardcover; 320p1250010780
ISBN-10: 1250010780

It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, whipping is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.

Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.

To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.

Author
Sam Thomas, Biography~

Sam ThomasSam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and in 2013 leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy.

He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. The Harlot’s Tale is the second book in his series, in which The Midwife’s Tale is the first.

Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.

For more information, please visit Sam Thomas’ website and blog.  You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out my interview with Sam Thomas by clicking HERE!

Link to Tour Schedule:  http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theharlotstaletour
Twitter Hashtag:  #HarlotsTaleTour

The Harlot's Tale_Tour Banner_FINAL

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Midwife’s Tale an Outstanding Historical Mystery Debut by Sam Thomas!

The Midwife's Tale

The Midwife’s Tale was an exciting new mystery by first time novelist and historian, Sam Thomas.  The book, set during the mid-17th century during the time of unrest known as the English Civil Wars, takes us on a rousing adventure of a midwife turned detective.  Stephen Cooper, a man with political enemies, is killed and his wife is found guilty without a proper trial.  It’s up to her friend to save her or she’ll burn at the stake.

A woman with admirable girth, protagonist Bridget Hodgson is a midwife and widow of respectable status which allows her to move around the city and speak to men as most women of time are not. It also allows her to be privy to a wide range of gossip of news.  With her newly acquired maidservant, Martha, who has her own story to tell, Bridget sets out meeting around town and begins to make enemies of her own.

Based on a true midwife from the era who lived in York, Thomas does a remarkable job of spinning a tale utilizing her profession as a foundation for a fiction novel.  He is outstanding at casting suspicion on all the book’s supporting characters so we can’t quite figure out who might have poisoned Cooper or if his wife is innocent.  The only delay that Hodgson can bring to the wife’s death sentence is to point out that she is pregnant.  But is she really? Who is telling the truth and who is spinning lies?  How far would someone go to protect their secrets?

With all the political intrigue in the novel, rebels fighting against the King and everyone playing both sides to be in favor with whomever wins, it certainly is any man’s murder. But I bet you’ll be surprised who actually commits the crime.

Filled with life that’s brimming with horrible class distinction in the various area of York, Thomas’ historical knowledge of this time period adds to set all the scenes with great detail and visual. I could totally see this as a BBC show with a midwife detective. And might I add, that this man knows a lot about birthing a baby. The scenes portraying Bridget’s work as midwife–even through to the emotional upheaval that the career brought with it–were phenomenal. Though I love history, I honestly say I do not want to time travel back to this era and proceed in becoming pregnant. Life was hard for women of any class, but especially for servants and in the poorer of any city’s areas.

I can’t wait to read more mysteries from Thomas and hope he writes more!! I enjoyed my time reading it in no time flat.  If you’re a fan of history, sleuthing, and strong female protagonists, The Midwife’s Tale is certainly a must-have read.  The style of writing reminded me of C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Secret; however, Thomas winds a tale to us from the deepest part of the society up giving us a glimpse into a character that can move about between both poor, common, and aristocrat with same level of humanity and accountability for all.

GIVEAWAY~

Thomas is giving away one regular book copy to a winner in US or Canada!! You don’t want to miss leaving a comment to enter this giveaway either on the blog or on my FB link of this post. In the comment, please leave an email (or email it to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com) so I can contact you if you win regarding your mailing address. No PO boxes please. 

Extra entry will be earned by following my blog: Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Please let me know you did so for the extra entry.

Giveway will run until February 6, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

About the Book~

Publication Date: January 8, 2013 | Minotaur Books | 320p

In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Midwife’s Tale.

It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

Sam Thomas, Biography~

Sam ThomasSam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas just recently moved to Ohio from Alabama.  He has a wife and two children.

 

Find out more on Sam Thomas, as well as the real life Bridget Hodgson and midwives of this era at:  http://samthomasbooks.com/

 

********************************************************************************************************

Book signings/Readings/Events~

For those of us who live in Ohio, so does the newly relocated Thomas, and we have an opportunity to see him at the following locations and times:

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fireside Bookshop, 29 N. Franklin St., Chagrin Falls.

*********************

When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, part of the “Dead of Winter, A Celebration of Mystery Writing” event.

Where: Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland.

*********************

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Where: Bertram Woods Library, 20600 Fayette Road, Shaker Heights.

*********************

Check out the Tour Schedule where you’ll find more reviews, interviews, giveaways, and guest posts at: http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/2012/11/sam-thomas-on-tour-for-midwifes-tale.html

Twitter Hashtag: #MidwifesTaleVirtualTour

The Midwife's Tale Tour Banner FINAL

11 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews