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When the Black Death enters England through the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is—or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarit When the Black Death enters England through the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is—or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from the manor when news of this pestilence reaches her, she looks for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. She decides to bring her serfs inside the safety of the moat that surrounds her manor house, then refuses entry to anyone else, even her husband. Lady Anne makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs...until food stocks run low. The nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat again? Compelling and suspenseful, The Last Hours is a riveting tale of human ingenuity and endurance set against the worst pandemic in history. In Lady Anne of Develish—leader, savior, heretic—Walters has created her most memorable heroine to date.


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When the Black Death enters England through the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is—or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarit When the Black Death enters England through the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is—or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from the manor when news of this pestilence reaches her, she looks for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. She decides to bring her serfs inside the safety of the moat that surrounds her manor house, then refuses entry to anyone else, even her husband. Lady Anne makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs...until food stocks run low. The nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat again? Compelling and suspenseful, The Last Hours is a riveting tale of human ingenuity and endurance set against the worst pandemic in history. In Lady Anne of Develish—leader, savior, heretic—Walters has created her most memorable heroine to date.

30 review for The Last Hours

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    It's the year 1348, and the little port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire will become known as the place where the sickness 'The Black Death' began. No one knows the reason for this sickness, how and why it spread so quickly or why it killed so many. The church is happy to preach that God is the reason behind it - that it's a punishment for sins and wickedness. Lady Anne of Develish thinks differently, she is something of a rare female in this period in history, in that she is well educated, astute, and It's the year 1348, and the little port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire will become known as the place where the sickness 'The Black Death' began. No one knows the reason for this sickness, how and why it spread so quickly or why it killed so many. The church is happy to preach that God is the reason behind it - that it's a punishment for sins and wickedness. Lady Anne of Develish thinks differently, she is something of a rare female in this period in history, in that she is well educated, astute, and completely literate, something which her husband Sir Richard is not! He is not only illiterate, but he's also a brute of a man. Sir Richard is away seeking a husband for their daughter Eleanor (A whole book could be written about Eleanor - sadistic, spoilt, petulant, you get the picture - very much her father's daughter). Whilst he's away, news arrives of the pestilence that's spreading through the villages, one by one. Lady Anne isn't interested in people's confessions of sin and misdeeds, she believes the way to keep this dreaded sickness away from Develish is to isolate themselves from the rest of civilisation, combined with a strict level of hygiene. She gathers her people inside the moat surrounding the Manor House, and refuses entry to all, including her husband Sir Richard. However, in doing so, she makes an enemy of her daughter Eleanor, and nobody wants to make an enemy of Eleanor! This imposed isolation made for a compelling read, as the claustrophobic confines of the Manor House brought about all manner of madness and fear. Matters only got worse as the meagre rations of food became even more limited. Because of the geographical restraints of confinement within the boundaries of Develish,the storyline relies heavily on its characters to bring the story to life, and the author managed to carry this out particularly well with some truly memorable characters. She was at great pains to illustrate the inequality of this period, where serfs were of little value other than to work to their deaths, whilst the power of the ruling classes was paramount, and everything they surveyed was theirs for the taking. It was a story about the fragility of life, humility, and sharing with others regardless of class or status. Minette Walters has produced a very welcome addition to the historical fiction genre with this excellent book. *Thank you to Netgalley and Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    In the past, Walters has written some chilling and intense thrillers, but it has been ten years since her last full length published novel. In this one she turns her extensive talent to a well researched historical. There is still a suspicious death, in fact there are many deaths as this book tackles the horrifying and world altering, Black Death. The year is 1348, and Sir Richard is traveling to another demense in order to negotiate a marriage for his daughter. He will never return home, nnor wi In the past, Walters has written some chilling and intense thrillers, but it has been ten years since her last full length published novel. In this one she turns her extensive talent to a well researched historical. There is still a suspicious death, in fact there are many deaths as this book tackles the horrifying and world altering, Black Death. The year is 1348, and Sir Richard is traveling to another demense in order to negotiate a marriage for his daughter. He will never return home, nnor will many accompanying him except for the baseborn serf Gyles. Lady Anne, a very wise and fair Lady, takes charge and in defense of this plague brings all serfs inside the enclosure and seals off the entries and exits. Her daughter, who despises her mother, despises the serfs, may be, after the plague, her mothers greatest enemy. There are secrets here that come out within the story, and some fascinating characters, fascinating history. A social parable as the Black Death changes the socio economic make up of the country. Religious aspects., as many back then thought only sinners would be stricken, and those in God's favor would be spared. A strong woman character, whose strength of purpose, and ability to act was not common during this time period. I adored this character, as well as Gyles, Thaddeus and Isabelle. I understand this will be one of three in this historical trilogy, in fact, this one ends on a cliffhanger. So, now I wait. Fans of Karen Maitland's Company of Liars, will enjoy this as will fans of general historical novels. The Black Death killed so many, was such a frightening time in history. ARC from Netgalley.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kylie D

    A wonderful book, set in the small demesne of Develish in England during 1348. Sir Richard has left to offer a dowry for his daughter to another lord, but is unable to make it back home before his entourage is struck down by the Black Plague. Only one of his party survives. Back in Develish Sir Richard's widow Lady Anne takes charge, with the able help of Thaddeus and the elder serfs. But how to keep the plague from Develish, when they don't know what causes it? And what are they to do when they A wonderful book, set in the small demesne of Develish in England during 1348. Sir Richard has left to offer a dowry for his daughter to another lord, but is unable to make it back home before his entourage is struck down by the Black Plague. Only one of his party survives. Back in Develish Sir Richard's widow Lady Anne takes charge, with the able help of Thaddeus and the elder serfs. But how to keep the plague from Develish, when they don't know what causes it? And what are they to do when they run out of food? I found I couldn't put this book down, so invested in the lives of Lady Anne and her people did I become, and I read it in a day. The conflicts amongst the people, both morally and religiously came across as very real. And as for Anne's daughter Lady Eleanor, I just wanted to slap her, HARD! In all, Minette Walters tells a marvellous story and I can't wait to read the sequel, The Turn of Midnight. I recommend this book to all lovers of Historical Fiction.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Smith

    I've been a follower of Minette Walters' books for some time now and constantly enjoyed reading her many entertaining and intriguing novels. She has a unique writing style and I always loved how she incorporated newspaper/media articles into her many stories. Therefore I was very excited to hear she had written an historical fiction novel, as this has been a genre I've been more and more enjoying of late. Sadly, I was quite disappointed in 'The Last Hours' and ended up skipping some pages in ord I've been a follower of Minette Walters' books for some time now and constantly enjoyed reading her many entertaining and intriguing novels. She has a unique writing style and I always loved how she incorporated newspaper/media articles into her many stories. Therefore I was very excited to hear she had written an historical fiction novel, as this has been a genre I've been more and more enjoying of late. Sadly, I was quite disappointed in 'The Last Hours' and ended up skipping some pages in order to get to the end. I found it slow and dare I say boring? It's still expertly written as expected and Minette has chosen a very interesting time in history to write about but unfortunately it just didn't do it for me. There are some very strong characters throughout the story, I particularly liked Lady Anne and Thaddeus and all of the characters were well thought out and appropriate to the time setting of the book. I imagine a lot of research must have also been carried out about the Black Death and the fourteenth century in England and the author has done a really good job conveying all this into her story. Although not for me this time, I will continue to read books by Minette Walters in the future and I expect that this beautifully printed book will still be hugely popular and well liked and I wholeheartedly wish her every success with it. 2.5 stars

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Minette Walters enters new territory with this beautifully written, atmospheric, and historically detailed look at a community in the medieval era, a tragic period that devastated European populations in 1348 with the arrival of the Black Death through a Dorset port. The plague is no respecter of social distinctions and class, as it hits everyone alike as it moves swiftly in its rampage across the country, leaving enormous numbers of dead in its wake. The church puts out that God is behind this Minette Walters enters new territory with this beautifully written, atmospheric, and historically detailed look at a community in the medieval era, a tragic period that devastated European populations in 1348 with the arrival of the Black Death through a Dorset port. The plague is no respecter of social distinctions and class, as it hits everyone alike as it moves swiftly in its rampage across the country, leaving enormous numbers of dead in its wake. The church puts out that God is behind this disease, seeking sinners and evil doers alone. Amidst this background, Walters gives us a compelling drama that unfolds on the estate of Develish, Lady Anne, a strong intelligent and courageous woman pushes forward in a progressive way by bringing her people on to the estate, including serfs, and refusing to let anyone else in, whilst promoting the practice of cleanliness. Lady Anne incurs the wrath of her daughter, Eleanor, a nasty piece of work, when she bars entry to her husband, Sir Richard, after he returns dying from a mission to negotiate Eleanor's marriage. Eleanor more closely echoes the characteristics of her repellent father. Social barriers fall apart in the face of the pestilent plague. As starvation hits the estate, a party ventures out into the dangerous world in search of supplies. Walters captures the superstition, fear and ignorance prevalent in the period as well as social norms and attitudes. The Black Death provides the wide range of characters the background amidst which their strengths and weaknesses as people are revealed mercilessly. Lady Anne, Thaddeus and Gyles were the standout favourites of mine in this novel. This was a fantastic piece of historical fiction that drew me in with ease, and I have the next in the series and looking forward to devouring that soon. Many thanks to Atlantic Books for an ARC.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest My friends, I want to tell you about this book. Minette Walters is one of my favorite crime fiction authors, and I was psyched when I found out that she was writing a work of historical fiction. The length is intimidating - it's a whopping 547 pages - but please don't let this keep you from reading this wondrous tome. It's everything I love in fiction, and the pages just flew by. I tore through it in two days and one of those days was a Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest My friends, I want to tell you about this book. Minette Walters is one of my favorite crime fiction authors, and I was psyched when I found out that she was writing a work of historical fiction. The length is intimidating - it's a whopping 547 pages - but please don't let this keep you from reading this wondrous tome. It's everything I love in fiction, and the pages just flew by. I tore through it in two days and one of those days was a work day, which just goes to show you how unputdownable THE LAST HOURS was. THE LAST HOURS is set in medieval times, during the 13th century. There are two main characters: Lady Anne and Thaddeus. Lady Anne is a lady who was raised in a nunnery, and therefore unusual in that she knows how to practice good hygiene and how to read. She is married to a man she despises, for reasons that we learn later on in the book. Thaddeus, on the other hand, is a serf, and a bastard. The only person who has ever shown him consistent kindness is Lady Anne. He is intelligent and hard-working and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, no matter how unsavory. Lady Anne's husband, Richard, leaves their demesne in Develish to go to a nearby province to meet with their daughter's husband-to-be. In this other demesne, the serfs are terrified and people are falling ill. His chief steward, Gyles, who is loyal to Lady Anne, begs that they turn back, but Richard is too busy wining and whoring, and refuses - until the lord of the manor also sickens, as well as several of Richard's own men. Luckily, Lady Anne finds out that her husband is ill from a pestilence that is fast-acting and contagious in a way beyond anything that they've ever known before, and she boards up the manor, destroys the drawbridge, and secures their raft to the other side of the moat. In the absence of their lord, Lady Anne becomes their liege lord, and because one of her ways at getting back at her husband was to educate the serfs on their estate, Develish finds social order turned upon its head as serfs and nobles alike must band together to survive against what we know is the Black Death. Here, the book takes on an almost post-apocalyptic flavor - survival at its most basic, against basically all of the odds. What makes it even better is that it becomes a study in sexism, feminism, and classism, portrayed in a way that many books try and fail to do because they attempt to do these things in a heavy-handed way that goes against the realistic conventions of the times. I loved this book. It's like a better version of PILLARS OF THE EARTH, in that it tells the story of the common people, but does so within a feminist lens, exploring the potential of women who were given power (albeit in a limited way). All of the characters in this book are great. Obviously Lady Anne was my favorite, followed closely by Thaddeus, Gyles, and Isabella. There are truly loathsome characters in here too, despicable in the way that characters in Game of Thrones are despicable (but not quite so cartoonishly evil in their caricaturing), like Richard (fuck him), Hugh (fuck him, too), and Eleanor (fuck, fuck, fuck). Eleanor reminded me a bit of Joffrey, actually, but then as I got to know more about her story and where she was coming from, she gained extra layers that Joffrey never received as a character, which I thought was really great, because we're often far too quick to villanize female characters without really giving them a proper motive, in my opinion. This might not be the go-to book for many people and I get that historical fiction can be an intimidating thing for some people because it might feel like work or research, but if you feel like venturing out of your literary comfort zone, you should definitely start with THE LAST HOURS. It's so good. It's fast-paced, character-driven, and gritty in the same compelling way that many sci-fi and fantasy novels are. I don't think you'll be disappointed if you pick this one up. How could you be? Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy! 5 stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    4.5 ever engrossing stars The Black Death was a devastating global epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. Estimates vary, but the Black Death may have killed one-half of Europe's population, and about 100 million people worldwide. If you love the blend of history with characters of long ago, this book will certainly be one you will be wanting to delve into. The black death, a killer disease, spread through and carried by fleas on rats was the background of this t 4.5 ever engrossing stars The Black Death was a devastating global epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. Estimates vary, but the Black Death may have killed one-half of Europe's population, and about 100 million people worldwide. If you love the blend of history with characters of long ago, this book will certainly be one you will be wanting to delve into. The black death, a killer disease, spread through and carried by fleas on rats was the background of this tale. We are introduced to the people who through the foresight and effort of Lady Anne, a brilliant well loved character, strives to save her small village of Develish. Residing in this town, are a cast of wonderful and devilish characters who bring to the reader the full extent of knowledge about the perils of life during this tragic time in Europe' history. Lady Anne's husband is a scoundrel and his ugly deeds catch up to him eventually. Lady Anne had a daughter, Eleanor, with her husband, and she is as devious and cunning as her father, hating her mother and the two hundred or so serfs who live in Develish. In particular, her wrath is directed towards Thaddeus Turkell, a serf whom her mother has placed her faith in and his adventures with other young serfs provides another aspect to the story. It was a frightening time, quarantined from the outside world, unsure of what was happening, the villagers rely on Lady Anne and each other for their support. The village priest is a cur and he is useless to the people, but they eventually learn to rely on their resiliency and will to survive. I so enjoyed this journey into a time that has always fascinated me. The black death decimated the population of Europe. This book provided a wonderful insight into the time that was beyond awful as people succumbed to this disease in a manner that was both painful and horrible. No one was immune. Twenty five million lost their lives, over one hundred million worldwide. I do recommend this book to all those who love historical fiction at its most telling. A caution though, this is the first book and the next will not be out to October of 2018. I can't wait! Thank you to Minette Walters, Mira Books, and Netgalley for a copy of this engrossing tale. My reviews can be found here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    "All has been looted, betrayed, sold; Black Death's wing flashed ahead. (Anna Akhmatova) A plague, beyond all human proportions of the imagination, seeped into the lives of all in 1348. Death knows no social standings, no rankings. It snuffs out the life of one who wears the weight of the crown as well as those who palm the rake of the fields. A devilish betrayer of the pure or the wicked of heart. Lady Anne of Develish in Dorsetshire has bid farewell to her husband Sir Richard. Sir Richard and hi "All has been looted, betrayed, sold; Black Death's wing flashed ahead. (Anna Akhmatova) A plague, beyond all human proportions of the imagination, seeped into the lives of all in 1348. Death knows no social standings, no rankings. It snuffs out the life of one who wears the weight of the crown as well as those who palm the rake of the fields. A devilish betrayer of the pure or the wicked of heart. Lady Anne of Develish in Dorsetshire has bid farewell to her husband Sir Richard. Sir Richard and his band of men carry a well-guarded trunk filled with the dowry of his daughter, Lady Eleanor. They are heading to broker the final elements of the pending marriage between Eleanor and Peter Bradmayne. News has reached them that Peter may be ill. After several nights of serious drinking and feasting, Peter no longer joins the group. It is then that Richard is informed by his captain of arms that illness has befallen the town and it has become a place of death. The troup of men and their horses make haste to return to the castle. The death toll includes Richard and his band of men. Only one survives. Meanwhile, back at the castle...... Lady Anne refuses to admit the returning men inside the castle. Lady Eleanor screeches like a barn owl at the injustice to her dying father. But Lady Anne realizes that they will all die if she opens the gates. Gyles Startout, the sole survivor, is banished to the shore along the moat for two weeks to prove that he will not infect them. It's now a waiting game. Minette Walters introduces us to a myriad of characters that form the solid bulk of this storyline. We meet Thaddeus Thurkell, a twenty year old bondsman, who assists Lady Anne in her efforts to bring cleanliness into the lives of the serfs who have taken refuge inside the castle. The tension builds by leaps and bounds as their minds work in unison to form a barrier between themselves and the impending plague. We also see the true colors of Lady Eleanor who, indeed, is her father's daughter. Evil begets evil. Meanwhile, outside of the castle..... Thaddeus Thurkell and a small group of young male serfs take to the road to secure more food and supplies in the outer areas. This is high adventure and provides an open door to the next book in the series. (The Turn of Midnight) Lady Eleanor must easily fit a length of veil to cover her horns and hooves. That girl alone is worth the price of admission, folks. The Last Hours is a glimpse into the horrors of the Black Death through the eyes of all levels of society. It is a known fact that between 30% and 50% of the country's population died because of the plague. Minette Walters gives us a bird's eye view from all ranks of social order and her character choices are an excellent vehicle in which to deliver this sharp-ended storyline. Can't wait for the next edition to get here. I received a copy of The Last Hours through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers and to Minette Walters.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    To begin with, I woud like to thank HARLEQUIN - MIRA (US and Canada) and Netgalley for allowing me to read this novel in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book since I have read several non-fiction books on the Black Death. I was curious how this topic could be dealt with in a novel. The Author did an exeptionally thorough research into the pestilence which arrived in England in 1348. In fact, what prompted her to write this particular novel was the very fact that she lives in To begin with, I woud like to thank HARLEQUIN - MIRA (US and Canada) and Netgalley for allowing me to read this novel in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book since I have read several non-fiction books on the Black Death. I was curious how this topic could be dealt with in a novel. The Author did an exeptionally thorough research into the pestilence which arrived in England in 1348. In fact, what prompted her to write this particular novel was the very fact that she lives in Dorset, not far from the place where the plague arrived. All historic details are fantastic: the symptoms, the ways people tried instinctively to avoid the Black Death or even some simple ways to bring relief to those who were affected by the plague. The reader can feel quite comfortable regarding the atmosphere of the place. Ms Walters chose a small village of Develish as the place of her plot, although some of her characters travel around the shire and witness the tragedy-struck countryside. There is a plethora of characters which allows the Author to introduce the thinking that prevailed in those days and describe everyday life in the Middle Ages in the English countryside. And there are secrets, which are necessary ingredienst for a good mystery. The books reads well, although I could not stop thinking that the language is too modern and at times Lady Anna, Eleonora and Thaddeus express opinions which could hardly be expressed six hundred years ago. It may be a trick on the side of the Author or perhaps indeed rebellion and unorthodox ideas were not that rare then. All in all, an interesting historical novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend to the fans of the genre.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I have read quite a few books by Minette Walters, all of them dark, disturbing crime novels. I would rate her as one of my favourite crime writers and now she suddenly turns to Historical Fiction! But that's okay too because I like HF and Walters is a talented writer. She could probably write anything she chose. The Last Hours is unquestionably a good book. The period in England surrounding the Black Death is always interesting (try Doomsday Book by Connie Willis) and Walters wrings it for every I have read quite a few books by Minette Walters, all of them dark, disturbing crime novels. I would rate her as one of my favourite crime writers and now she suddenly turns to Historical Fiction! But that's okay too because I like HF and Walters is a talented writer. She could probably write anything she chose. The Last Hours is unquestionably a good book. The period in England surrounding the Black Death is always interesting (try Doomsday Book by Connie Willis) and Walters wrings it for every drop of blood and gore, probably due to her more normal fare of crime writing. The best feature of the book is its characters. They are well rounded and realistic and eventually the reader comes to really care what happens to these people, especially Lady Anne and Thaddeus. The author must have done a huge amount of research to produce 555 pages of intensely readable fiction. I enjoyed it very much indeed but found the ending odd. It appears we will be continuing the story of the people of Develish in 2018 - apparently a duology, if not maybe even a series! I was surprised but not in a bad way.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    “A Black Death has fallen upon our land…” I have never read anything by Minette Walters before, but am aware she is best known for writing crime novels. As such, this is something of a change for her, being historical fiction. In fact, in a way, this is almost a modern dystopian novel, set in the historical setting of 1348 amidst the sweeping plague of the Black Death. It is set around the household of Sir Richard of Develish, who, when we meet him, is preparing to travel to visit Bradmayne in Do “A Black Death has fallen upon our land…” I have never read anything by Minette Walters before, but am aware she is best known for writing crime novels. As such, this is something of a change for her, being historical fiction. In fact, in a way, this is almost a modern dystopian novel, set in the historical setting of 1348 amidst the sweeping plague of the Black Death. It is set around the household of Sir Richard of Develish, who, when we meet him, is preparing to travel to visit Bradmayne in Dorsetshire, to seal the marriage of his fourteen year old daughter, Eleanor, with Peter of Bradmayne. It is fair to say that Eleanor is not much enthralled by the thought of her marriage – in fact, the spoilt, vicious and supremely unlikeable Eleanor, is never pleased by much at all. While the convent raised Lady Anne believes in duty and education, Eleanor thinks only of herself and idolises her brutish father. Lady Anne has no love for her husband and has given him no heir. Mostly, she avoids him as much as possible; using her keen intelligence to help protect the serfs, to teach them to read and to educate them about rudimentary health care. This means that, although the serfs fear Sir Richard, they respect, and trust in, Lady Anne deeply. So, when Lord Richard and his party encounter the plague on their trip, it means the villagers follow Lady Anne’s plan to isolate the people and keep them safe from the plague. What follows is a fascinating look at a community, with many characters at odds with each other, isolated in a land teeming with death. There are personal animosities, the tension between Normans and Saxons, the role of the Church, the enlightened Lady Anne set against the fear, ignorance and superstitions of the time and many secrets, which emerge over time. There is also a great depiction of a society which falls apart, as plague lays waste to the countryside. There is obviously, at least one more book planned, as a sequel to this one and so this novel has no definite ending. However, it is certainly a very interesting read, with some excellent characters and a great sense of place. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    2.5✰ - very weak, pallid stars. From my status updates; February 10, 2018 – page 76 13.89% "Love the cover& good beginning, but it is starting to feel like a 21st century woman has been transplanted into 14th century England. Walter's writing style is very readable though, so let's see how I get on! :)" February 11, 2018 – page 166 30.35% "Really flat characters - you are a good guy or a bad guy, there is no in between." February 15, 2018 – page 316 57.77% "The story now is quite good, but the pa 2.5✰ - very weak, pallid stars. From my status updates; February 10, 2018 – page 76 13.89% "Love the cover& good beginning, but it is starting to feel like a 21st century woman has been transplanted into 14th century England. Walter's writing style is very readable though, so let's see how I get on! :)" February 11, 2018 – page 166 30.35% "Really flat characters - you are a good guy or a bad guy, there is no in between." February 15, 2018 – page 316 57.77% "The story now is quite good, but the pace is ponderous, the characters still one dimensional & so much telling not showing... I've officially hit skim mode now - & that only because it's a giveaway win - the last one I'm likely to get." I think that covers pretty much everything, except that the story did pick up for a while around the 70% mark before a ridiculous denouement and then an ending which really wasn't. Because this isn't a standalone book, it is the first in a series. Since there is nothing on the cover to indicate this is the first in a series this feels like a bit of a cheat. You do find out at the end of the book as there is announcement that in October 2018 a followup will be coming from Minette Walters, followed by a fragment of writing. I don't know if this was the start of the second part of the book - I was too annoyed to care by then. I would like to thank Allen & Unwin & Goodreads for sending me a second copy of this Giveaway after the first one went missing in the mail. This was exceptional service from both companies - I only wish I liked the book better.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    June 1348, and Sir Richard and his entourage were away from their home of Develish when the Black Death struck – thought to be brought to England’s shores by sailors, it was an enemy no one knew how to combat. But Sir Richard’s wife, Lady Anne, had her own thoughts – reared by nuns, she knew to isolate the sick from the well, and she set to close their community off to anyone travelling past; even her own husband and his men were stopped from entering. The moat enclosed the manor house with both June 1348, and Sir Richard and his entourage were away from their home of Develish when the Black Death struck – thought to be brought to England’s shores by sailors, it was an enemy no one knew how to combat. But Sir Richard’s wife, Lady Anne, had her own thoughts – reared by nuns, she knew to isolate the sick from the well, and she set to close their community off to anyone travelling past; even her own husband and his men were stopped from entering. The moat enclosed the manor house with both serfs plus Lady Anne and her daughter Eleanor inside. Thaddeus became Lady Anne’s right-hand man as both were literate where others were not. Lady Anne’s knowledge and way with words, her calm manner and serenity, kept her people happy and secure in a land filled with fear and terror. Even as the people of Develish remained healthy, their food stocks were running shockingly low. The continued guarding of the perimeter against bandits and concern for the future of the people had Thaddeus making the decision to discover what was happening outside their boundaries. Taking the young sons of the leading serfs of the village, he ventured forth – but would it be into the horrors of the pestilence - or worse? Lady Anne of Develish had many worries on her shoulders; her lack of knowledge of the outside world was one of them. The Last Hours by Minette Walters was a thoroughly enjoyable historical novel which shows the strength of some, and the lack of foresight of others. The cleverness and simple way of doing something which was quite obviously extremely difficult, not to mention traumatic, showed, especially in Lady Anne’s compassion and understanding of her serfs. Beautifully written, The Last Hours is one I highly recommend, and although I had no idea when I started this novel (all 555 pages of it!) that there is a sequel to follow in October 2018, I’m looking forward to continuing Lady Anne, Gyles and Thaddeus’ story. With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    I am starting and flinging away books like a crazy person right now. Millennial pop culture memoir - gone. Giant doorstopper about the Black Death, closed with a hefty sigh and frown. Has my reading radar gone on the fritz ? am I trying too hard to take a break from capital L literary fiction ? I don't know whatever it is, its not working out ! This should have been good, I did really want to read a kind of medieval dystopia with boils but historical fiction is a dicey proposition and this one ha I am starting and flinging away books like a crazy person right now. Millennial pop culture memoir - gone. Giant doorstopper about the Black Death, closed with a hefty sigh and frown. Has my reading radar gone on the fritz ? am I trying too hard to take a break from capital L literary fiction ? I don't know whatever it is, its not working out ! This should have been good, I did really want to read a kind of medieval dystopia with boils but historical fiction is a dicey proposition and this one had anachronisms galore, two dimensional characters but worse even than those sins, it was boring. Unforgivable for a book I was treating as a mildly diverting historical romp. Hilary Mantel maybe you could step in here, or you know hurry up and finish The Mirror and the Light

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

    The Last Hours served as both my introduction to the writing of Minette Walters and to the genre of historical fiction. As a reader of crime thrillers I was drawn by virtue of the authors reputation and that the novel is essentially a character driven examination of the new beginnings that the Black Death heralded for many. The pestilence did much more than simply claim the lives of swathes of men; it also created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals. None was more important than The Last Hours served as both my introduction to the writing of Minette Walters and to the genre of historical fiction. As a reader of crime thrillers I was drawn by virtue of the authors reputation and that the novel is essentially a character driven examination of the new beginnings that the Black Death heralded for many. The pestilence did much more than simply claim the lives of swathes of men; it also created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals. None was more important than that of bringing down the prevailing social hierarchy, handing bondsmen their freedom and putting a man’s destiny in his own hands. Indifferent to class distinctions, taking whomever it chose, the Black Death put lords on equal footing with serfs and along with peril came opportunity. This comprehensively researched novel adheres to the widely known facts of the pandemic but Minette Walters vividly brings the story to life by examining the profound effects on the lives of the inhabitants of Develish, Dorseteshire. When the Black Death entered England through the port of Melcombe, Dorseteshire in June 1348 little was known about the sickness or how it would transform the landscape. The third day of July, 1348 sees the imperious Sir Richard of Develish preparing to leave his demesne and travel to Bradmayne in the hope of securing a marriage for his petulant fourteen-year-old daughter, Lady Eleanor. Rumour has reached Develish that potential suitor, Lord Peter, has succumbed to the return of a childhood illness and with a dowry in tow, Sir Richard and his retinue depart. With no love lost for Sir Richard from either the two-hundred serfs tied to his fealty or from his intelligent and humane wife, Lady Anne, Develish exhales a collective sigh of relief as he leaves. More worthy than her husband in every sense, Lady Anne sees no distinction between serfs and lords and after being educated by nuns from the age of six she is both literate and conversant with the benefits of sanitation, treating and isolating the sick. Since her arrival at Develish as a fourteen-year-old girl she has steadily assumed the running of the demesne, all without the egotistical or lustful Sir Richard any the wiser. However, the altogether clearer sighted bondsmen are well aware and have been the direct beneficiaries of her efforts. Within Sir Richard’s retinue his wife has embedded her friend and ally, Gyles Startout, an elevated serf and a devoted man who is her eyes and ears on travels with her feckless husband. When Sir Richard returns early from his travels with news that Lord Peter is gripped by the pestilence, he himself is already ailing and to his fury Lady Anne makes the decision to exile him outside of the moat surrounding Develish. Whilst popular misconception and the uneducated see the sickness as a punishment for sins, readily subscribed to by dissolute priest Father Anselm, Lady Anne remains coolly sceptical. She is something of a heretic, who sees survival not through beseeching God but through isolating the sick, pooling resources and working together. Accepting the wrath of her spiteful daughter and with Sir Richard dead within days, the bondsmen of Develish readily look to Lady Anne who unites the demesne and abolishes the prevailing social order. Stepping up to the role of steward is base-born Thaddeus Thurkell, a swarthy looking giant pilloried by stepfather, Will, and inciting the fury of the poisonous Lady Eleanor for the scant attention he pays her. Short on words, his education and imposing physicality make him a natural choice for steward but few appreciate it at the time as Sir Richard’s steward, the meddling Master Hugh de Courtesmain is relieved of his position. As the months pass and food stores run low the enforced claustrophobia of Develish gives rise to petty gripes, infighting, boredom and madness in the case of Lady Eleanor. Frustrated by the lack of knowledge of the world outside Develish, it is Thaddeus Thurkell who sacrifices himself for Develish and Lady Anne and leads a ragtag group on a mission through the disseminated villages outside the demesne to secure provisions and bring news. What follows is an immersive account of the treacherous recce undertaken by Thaddeus weaved alongside the continuation of life in Develish. Darkly atmospheric, The Last Hours is infused with a sense of menace as tensions threaten to spoil over and fear runs rife at the future that lies ahead. Not only is Develish vividly drawn, but the ravaged villages beyond as Thaddeus and his gang are met by fetid corpses and rat infestations and in addition have their eyes opened to the potential for a future freed from and outside of the demesne of Develish.“To Black Death promised freedom to anyone who survived it. With so many dead, serfs skilled in farming would be prized once lords became desperate to have their fields ploughed and planted: and their need would give men and women the chance to bargain themselves out of bondage and demand payment for their work.... From being the most despised of people, peasants would become the most valued, for without their labour no Lord would be able to keep and govern his demesne.”The Last Hours is a searing testimony to the courageous triumvirate (Lady Anne, Thaddeus Thurkell and Gyles Startout) who dedicate themselves unflaggingly to keeping the scourge outside of their confines. As the threesome go to increasing lengths to ensure the fragile accord holds Minette Walters gives life to a memorable cast, from churlish Lady Eleanor, shrewd Thaddeus who leads by example, the self-sacrificing Gyles Startout to the quiet sensibility and sharp wit of Lady Anne. Genuinely gripping this sprawling tale takes its readers to the beating heart of the community of Develish, and Walters draws many of the leading serfs and their families (Trueblood, Startout, Buckler, Catchpole) into the narrative, making the reader privy to every part of the drama. Full of intrigue The Last Hours succeeds in evoking one of the most perilous period in medieval history. With some of Lady Anne’s principal relationships given greater emphasis (Lady Eleanor and Thaddeus Thurkell), Walters succeeds in putting her character under the microscope and my admiration for a heroine, saviour and true leader of people goes unparalleled. Whilst Minette Walters could have opted for the altogether more people pleasing introduction of a romantic element into the denouement, she instead leaves her story rather open-ended for the monumentally more ambitious continuation of this saga and I shall be alongside the fellows of Develish every step of the way. An education in itself, I doubt I would have been so thoroughly held in thrall by a sterile recounting of the Black Death, but The Last Hours captures the very essence of the period in a fist pumping and expansive character led story of resilience and fortitude. With thanks to Readers First for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    I selected this book based on an online recommendation. The cover and description were appealing, so I decided to give it a shot. The author is new to me, but the era of history is not. Fourteenth century history does, however, seem to be unfamiliar to the author. Very little of the attitudes, speech, and beliefs of the characters in this book felt 14th century to me. Besides being flat, one-dimensional characters, many of them sounded like modern people thrown into a novel about the plague. Fait I selected this book based on an online recommendation. The cover and description were appealing, so I decided to give it a shot. The author is new to me, but the era of history is not. Fourteenth century history does, however, seem to be unfamiliar to the author. Very little of the attitudes, speech, and beliefs of the characters in this book felt 14th century to me. Besides being flat, one-dimensional characters, many of them sounded like modern people thrown into a novel about the plague. Faith and church, which were an important part of life to most people, rich or poor, at this time, are treated with disdain and mockery by almost every character. Medical knowledge of the 21st century is injected throughout the novel to create an island of survivors while everyone around them is dying. The only character I had any sympathy for was one the author tries very hard to paint as a villain. But I had pity for the neglected and abused fourteen-year-old daughter whose mother had long ago decided that insults were her favored parenting tool. We are supposed to believe that at some point Lady Anne had tried her best with Eleanor, but her treatment of the girl is horrifying, and it is not shocking that the girl has turned into a brat doing whatever it takes to get some attention. That's what neglected kids do. As for Thaddeus and his boring ramble through the countryside abusing his own crew of teenagers.....I don't even know what the point of that was. There is a murder that is solved along the way, but no one seems too concerned about it. The book ends with 'to be continued' but I will not be looking for more of these selfish, anachronistic characters' stories. This book was received from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    Year 1348...The black death spreads over England. In the countryside, there lives an extraordinary women for the time being: Lady Anne Develish. She has a useless husband, and a very up-in-the-air young daughter. the whole responsibility of the well being of the estate and her people falls on Lady Anne's shoulders. In the mission to survive, she will befriend a slave called Thaddeus Thurkell... Lady Anne's uncommon decisions and actions will soon have consequences. I really enjoyed reading this b Year 1348...The black death spreads over England. In the countryside, there lives an extraordinary women for the time being: Lady Anne Develish. She has a useless husband, and a very up-in-the-air young daughter. the whole responsibility of the well being of the estate and her people falls on Lady Anne's shoulders. In the mission to survive, she will befriend a slave called Thaddeus Thurkell... Lady Anne's uncommon decisions and actions will soon have consequences. I really enjoyed reading this book. Lady Anne is unforgettable. She is quite extraordinary and full of wit. Glad to find out this is a series and I am looking forward to read the next one in this series.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. In The Last Hours we find ourselves in the village of Melcombe, Dorset 1348. The Black Death has taken Britain, and all - old or young, rich or poor, are subject to its whim. Many believe it is a curse sent from God, but Lady Anne has other ideas. Raised by nuns, she has the foresight that could save her household - by barring the door to the sick and isolating them from everyone else. But how long can the survivors stay isolated wh I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. In The Last Hours we find ourselves in the village of Melcombe, Dorset 1348. The Black Death has taken Britain, and all - old or young, rich or poor, are subject to its whim. Many believe it is a curse sent from God, but Lady Anne has other ideas. Raised by nuns, she has the foresight that could save her household - by barring the door to the sick and isolating them from everyone else. But how long can the survivors stay isolated when food stock dwindles and tempers fray? This is such a well researched novel, of an extremely compelling period in history. The author has clearly done her homework and this shines through. It's incredibly detailed in its description of the infrastructure and hierarchy present at this time, from the gentry to the working serfs - which is invaluable information as the story progresses. It has left me desperately seeking out more information with regards to this part of British history I have little previous experience of. The characters are also wonderfully complex. Lady Anne. our leading lady, defies her station and her upbringing to befriend the serfs of her lands - teaching them to read and treating them as something other than slaves. Because of this they have a deep sense of loyal towards her, and she has a deeper understand of their plight. This leads to Lady Anne having an innate need to protect them and help them when the plague comes, bringing them into her fold within her home. Eleanor her daughter. by comparison is volatile and self centered. Similar in nature to her father, a brute who Lady Anne does not love or respect. As the story progresses we see Eleanor descend into madness as a mirror to Lady Anne's unbreakable will to survive. This is really an intimate look at an almost apocalyptic society, as social constraints fall away within such a confined space. Paranoia and mistrust run rampant, and we see these characters forced to come to terms with each other. and share everything they have. The tension at times is palpable. I enjoyed the section where a 'party' goes out beyond the walls of their sanctuary in search of other survivors and food, as the serfs realise that such a catastrophe could actually lead to their freedom. It was a real turning point in the novel. My only real issue with this was the pacing. It was incredibly slow at times, and as such it took me a long time to get through this as I got distracted and yearned for a little 'action'. At times I was desperate to know what was going on outside of the walls our characters were confined by, and I struggled to keep reading. This is at heart a character novel. The characters define this world and compel the story along. I just wish the editing at times could have been a bit more cut throat.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Lady Anne of Develish is a truly modern woman. She is basically an atheist in 14th Century England. If she was a Christian she would be a saint for the miracle of saving her entire village from the black death. She has introduced modern hygiene and even managed to invent the morning after pill so women can have control of their own reproductive rights. But proper 14th Century bad guys abound and together with her band of plucky serfs she must defeat them and save her people. If you like The A-Te Lady Anne of Develish is a truly modern woman. She is basically an atheist in 14th Century England. If she was a Christian she would be a saint for the miracle of saving her entire village from the black death. She has introduced modern hygiene and even managed to invent the morning after pill so women can have control of their own reproductive rights. But proper 14th Century bad guys abound and together with her band of plucky serfs she must defeat them and save her people. If you like The A-Team...if you like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court...if you like Outlander, you're probably going to like this. Honestly I loved it but calling a spade a spade this isn't historical fiction. It's a zombie book. The Black Death is the zombie apocalypse, it has everything from stinky redneck bad guys to the fort and there's even a 14th Century Walmart of a sort. I would rate it 5 Stars but for the "To Be Continued"...I'm deducting a star for that so 4 Stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Well researched book set in the time of the Black Death of 1348 - it’s victims and survivors. This focuses more on the social shift, where peasants who survive begin to have more bargaining power as so many people die - a time where social status could change quite dramatically. I’ve read many stories set during this snapshot of British history and this one is pretty much on par. I felt the pace was quite slow in places, not too much of a story line beyond the Black Death and the character portra Well researched book set in the time of the Black Death of 1348 - it’s victims and survivors. This focuses more on the social shift, where peasants who survive begin to have more bargaining power as so many people die - a time where social status could change quite dramatically. I’ve read many stories set during this snapshot of British history and this one is pretty much on par. I felt the pace was quite slow in places, not too much of a story line beyond the Black Death and the character portrayal lacked any subtlety to my mind. Many thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book. All opinions are my own.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    As historical fantasy goes, this is very much to my taste. How can I resist a tale about a noblewoman resisting the patriarchy of her time, both socially and religiously? Since I’m a firm believer in the worth of education, the importance of literacy, and in the ability to reason well and plan accordingly, this book was perfect for a cold, snowy day where I prefered to hunker indoors rather than venture out into the snow storm. This is a departure from Walters’ usual genre, that of the mystery, a As historical fantasy goes, this is very much to my taste. How can I resist a tale about a noblewoman resisting the patriarchy of her time, both socially and religiously? Since I’m a firm believer in the worth of education, the importance of literacy, and in the ability to reason well and plan accordingly, this book was perfect for a cold, snowy day where I prefered to hunker indoors rather than venture out into the snow storm. This is a departure from Walters’ usual genre, that of the mystery, and I found it to be well done. How difficult it must have been to live through the Black Death, wondering how in the world the disease was spread and being given apocalyptic reasons by the all-dominating Catholic Church. How brave must have been the people who dared to dissent, claiming that God was kinder than the Church was willing to acknowledge? Those who decided that God could not have anything to do with the pandemic. Some readers may find that the attitudes displayed by Lady Anne and Thaddeus Thurkell to be too modern for the tale. I struggled with that briefly, but got caught up in the story and abandoned my reservations early on. If we are going to enjoy historical fantasy, why not give the characters motivations that modern readers can identify with? If you enjoy this book, may I also recommend to you Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book and C.C. Humphrey’s Plague.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Well, this was disappointing. My copy of this novel had the phrase ‘compelling and suspenseful’ included in the blurb, but sadly, I found this to be anything but. The premise of ‘The Last Hours’ surrounds a small community of souls trying to survive through the deadly epidemic of the Black Plague in the 14th century. Given the 500+ page length, that screams ‘character-driven-novel’, but this is where my problem arises. The characters are flat, two-dimensional, and, if I’m honest, just not that inte Well, this was disappointing. My copy of this novel had the phrase ‘compelling and suspenseful’ included in the blurb, but sadly, I found this to be anything but. The premise of ‘The Last Hours’ surrounds a small community of souls trying to survive through the deadly epidemic of the Black Plague in the 14th century. Given the 500+ page length, that screams ‘character-driven-novel’, but this is where my problem arises. The characters are flat, two-dimensional, and, if I’m honest, just not that interesting. Lady Anne is your typical saintly, do-gooder with a holier-than-thou aura for the simple fact that she can do no wrong. Her daughter Eleanor is the complete opposite, and that troublesome and cruel husband mentioned in the blurb? Well, he’s dead in the first ~50 or so pages, so he proves to be no real obstacle. The rest of the supporting cast - the serfs of the manor - while considerately more educated and healthier than normal due to Lady Anne’s modern approach to life, aren’t really that interesting either. They’re all some variation of Anne or Eleanor’s character, and cardboard cutouts get pretty boring. If your characters aren’t interesting and they’re the driving force of your considerably long novel, then you’ve got an issue. And a reader who just doesn’t care as much as she should, unfortunately.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    When the Black Death enters England in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. Religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. The story plays off in the small town of Develish where some of the first victims include Lord Richard when he visited a nearby estate to arrange a marriage for his 14-year old daughter. His estate is left vulnerable, so his wife Lady Anne takes the bold decision When the Black Death enters England in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. Religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. The story plays off in the small town of Develish where some of the first victims include Lord Richard when he visited a nearby estate to arrange a marriage for his 14-year old daughter. His estate is left vulnerable, so his wife Lady Anne takes the bold decision to move everyone (including the serfs) into the domain and seal off the entrance. I liked Lady Anne, her desire to improve the lives of the serfs by secretly teaching them to read and write but if I am honest I found her just a little too perfect, never saying or doing anything wrong. The main antagonist, Lady Anne's daughter Elanore, was also a little overdone. She was just too bad all the time every time. Some of her behaviour was explained towards the end of the book, but I do feel her character could have been written with more nuance. I think the description of how isolated communities were wiped out and how hard decisions need to be made to stay alive were well done and interesting. However, my biggest issue with the book was that if felt as if the author created conflict just for the sake of conflict. Every conversation had to be an argument. One minute the characters are agreement and the next minute spewing vile at each other. It became tiresome and made me dislike every single character a little. And finally, as I was not aware that this is part of a series the ending was very abrupt with little resolution. I liked the story that was created but I disliked the characters interactions with each other, so I am not sure if I will continue with the series.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Ellis-Ballinger

    DNF at 50%. I really wanted to like this book. I loved the medieval, Black Death in a small village setting, but the writing felt cheesy and none of the characters were particularly likeable. I don’t want to read any more and I don’t really care what happens to any of them so I’m bailing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    I waited an entire day to ponder this review. Trying to think of a reason to give it the 3rd star. I failed. This is a series, I'd guess from the ending here. But even if I had known that it would not have made a difference. Not in my decision to read it, continue it or to develop interest or joy in the reading. First of all- it is far more some type of fantasy alternative history than it is any sense or measure of an historical fiction work. But that's just a side issue and really doesn't mesh wi I waited an entire day to ponder this review. Trying to think of a reason to give it the 3rd star. I failed. This is a series, I'd guess from the ending here. But even if I had known that it would not have made a difference. Not in my decision to read it, continue it or to develop interest or joy in the reading. First of all- it is far more some type of fantasy alternative history than it is any sense or measure of an historical fiction work. But that's just a side issue and really doesn't mesh with why I gave it 2 stars. Here's why. The content, the story line, the character developments, the stereotypes, the "sins" and the superlative leadership perfection humans in two of the main roles. Lady Anne and Thaddeus, by name. How justified to sanctity- both of them. They deserve celestial crowns? Also the opposite of vile and nasty. Lady Eleanor and her father. And all the fickle and feckless that would just expire within 2 days without the sanctified two to "help" them. Sheep without shepherds? There was a much more interesting series some years ago about a cross over human girl with the Neanderthal culture which holds a close comparison to this Walters' work. The Jean Auel series re the Cave Bear Clan- which was written SO much better. But the onus becomes almost impossible for me in this review NOT to compare the two. That series and this one. And this is the similarity. That the authors try to get every homo sapiens advancement for 1000 plus years into the mix through those arts or inventions or practices being "discovered" by one group or one family or one individual. In Auel's, she discovers everything from throwing sticks to animal domestication. All by herself. It takes millennia of attempts through different cross over cultures to define and "invent" some of these methods. A few, maybe, advance by "accident" - but the entire concepts? And then develop into profuse "working" ability for the group within one month or two trip during a plague or a volcano eruption or something? Nope. This one is just bottom like ridiculous and quite similar. Ridiculous in the conclusions that could be drawn so quickly too in the ways of deduction that they did here with Thaddeus and his 5 "boys". Next I thought they would discover "radium" too on the way home. Fairy tales should be marketed as fairy tales. For those who prefer to read pure fairy tales with ogres and angels. This trailer is deceiving. It would have been more redeemable for my own reading if there was not so much endless redundancy. Or if the out of era revisionist methods of medical "whole piece" thinking were not so evident. Pallid, pallid interpretations. Verbose copy length which did nothing but repeat attitudes. Just not a fan of this type of writing style itself. No more for me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

    *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com Minette Walters is an international bestselling author of crime fiction. Walters has sold over 25 million of her books across the globe and several of her books have been adapted into television serials. After a break from the constant circle of publishing crime novel after crime novel, Walters has turned her hand to historical fiction with a distinct medieval flavour. Set in 1348, The Last Hours provides a fascinating account of the Black Death in the Dorse *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com Minette Walters is an international bestselling author of crime fiction. Walters has sold over 25 million of her books across the globe and several of her books have been adapted into television serials. After a break from the constant circle of publishing crime novel after crime novel, Walters has turned her hand to historical fiction with a distinct medieval flavour. Set in 1348, The Last Hours provides a fascinating account of the Black Death in the Dorset region of England. When The Last Hours begins, we learn that the Black Death has just arrived onto the shores of England through the port of Melcombe, which is situated in Dorseteshire. It is the summer of 1348 and this is time where there is absolutely no knowledge of this sickness, or more importantly how to manage this illness. While the Church are quick to label the awful sickness as the work of those who have sinned, Anne, the Lady of Devilish, feels this is not the case. She becomes an active part in keeping the sickness at bay in her own region. Anne isolates herself and those around her from the inflicted. She feels this is the only way to prevent the sickness from reaching the well. While dealing with family issues, such as the absence of her husband and the wrath of her petulant daughter Eleanor, new challenges arise for Lady Anne. She must deal with the collapsing economy, class issues, a lack of food and isolation from the rest of the country. The Last Hours is a book told with merit and gusto. This novel is a superb tribute to the victims and survivours of the Black Death, the worst plague known in human history. From the trials and tribulations of the sickness, courage prevails, through the actions of the heroine of this story, the formidable Lady Anne. I recently met and listened to the author of The Last Hours, at a book event in Perth. This event gave me a great appetite for the work of Minette Walters, which I am quite embarrassed to say I have not explored yet. It was absolutely riveting to hear this writer’s journey to the publication of this novel, some ten years after she decided to put aside her highly successful crime fiction novels, in place for historical fiction. A story close to home, set in Dorset, provided the inspiration Walters needed to pen her first historical fiction novel. She discovered at nearby port to be the pivotal entry point for the first rumblings of the Black Death in the year 1348. Walters started to compose this novel, which is clearly told with passion and from her writer’s heart. It is a story that you can very clearly see has been itching to get out and to be shared with historical fiction fiends around the world. What immediately struck me about The Last Hours was the atmosphere and the rich sense of place. I was immediately transported to the summer of 1348, in the Dorset area of Britain, thanks to the talented hands of master storyteller Minette Walters. Through the descriptive prose, the reader is given an access all areas view of life in Britain at this time. We receive a very good picture of the way of life, customs, practices, class issues, gender divisions, religious fractions, tensions and treatment of those who are inflicted by this disease. We also gain a better understanding of life in medieval England. Walters highlights the aftermath of the conquest and how this has impacted on life in England, especially the microcosm of Dorset during this time. Walters must be applauded for the research techniques she has applied to her first historical fitting outing, it is impressive. It is often hard to balance historical facts within an engaging narrative, but I believe Walters succeeds in her efforts. The Last Hours is consistent pace wise, there are no moments where my attention lagged, this surprised me as it a lengthy book. The factual aspects of the novel are carefully embedded within the compelling narrative, so the heavy historical features never overtake the narrative. This is a testament to the refined storytelling skills of Minette Walters. An area in which I feel Walters shines are her passages that directly convey to the reader what it would be like to suffer from the Black Death. She also expresses how it would feel to watch on as those around you, your loved ones and fellow community members, perished by this disease, so quickly and horribly. It was hard to stomach at times, learning about the boils, swellings, bodily fluids and rotting elements of this plague. However, in the absence of virtually no prior knowledge of this disease and the history of this perilous time, I am thankful to Minette Walters for filling my gap in knowledge. I feel much more well versed about this turning point in history. Another aspect that I feel Minette Walters truly shows us her worth is in her presentation of the character of Lady Anne. The Last Hours would not be the masterpiece it is without the presence of Lady Anne. Anne’s character was completely memorable, kind, brave, astute and revolutionary. I very much enjoyed the sequences featuring Anne and her interactions with the other pivotal characters in this novel. It was a joy to share Lady Anne’s journey and although the book did close in the form of a cliff hanger, thankfully I have the sequel immediately on hand! The Last Hours will provide you with many hours of enjoyment as you submerge yourself in medieval England battling against the Black Death. *Book ‘W’ of the a-z author challenge 2018

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Last Hours is the eighteenth novel by British author, Minette Walters, and is a departure from her usual genre of crime/psychological thriller: this one is historical fiction. It’s June 1348, and the Plague has just arrived in England. The population is completely unprepared for the devastation this disease will wreak, but a scant few demesnes are better equipped to handle it than most. A Saxon, Lady Anne of Develish in Dorsetshire was raised by nuns; she has been quietly running the demesne The Last Hours is the eighteenth novel by British author, Minette Walters, and is a departure from her usual genre of crime/psychological thriller: this one is historical fiction. It’s June 1348, and the Plague has just arrived in England. The population is completely unprepared for the devastation this disease will wreak, but a scant few demesnes are better equipped to handle it than most. A Saxon, Lady Anne of Develish in Dorsetshire was raised by nuns; she has been quietly running the demesne in an efficient and compassionate way underneath the radar of her cruel Norman husband. Sir Richard of Develish departs for another demesne to set up his spoilt fourteen-year-old daughter in an advantageous marriage but Gyles Startout, Anne’s informant in Richard’s retinue, soon realises there is a sickness afflicting the nearby village. Potent and virulent, it appears to be something that kills quickly with few survivors. By the time Sir Richard decides to return to Develish, its already too late for many of his party. In response to an announcement from the Bishop of Sarum regarding “A Black Death”, Anne takes the unconventional step of bringing the demesne’s bondsmen to live on the land contained within the moat that Sir Richard had, in his vanity, built as a folly. Her plan to isolate them from the rest of the population is a revolutionary measure that proves to be the salvation of Develish and its serfs. On her husband’s return, she insists on his party being quarantined, a move that angers young Lady Eleanor and also attracts censure from Hugh de Courtesmain, Sir Richard’s Norman steward. As does her later appointment of a serf as Steward. Thus they survive, free of the pestilence, for some months, but how long will they last on the food they have stored? And how will they avoid attack from raiding parties? Then a teenaged boy dies, and Anne’s steward takes drastic action. Walters gives the reader a fascinating look into the mid-fourteenth Century, bringing history to life in what is obviously the product of extensive research. Her characters are complex, human and flawed. They have secrets and doubts and weaknesses and their actions result in plenty of intrigue. Walters explores not just the ordeal of surviving the plague, but also, surviving in a world drastically changed, with a population so severely depleted that the very dynamic between serf and master is altered. While is does not exactly end in a cliff-hanger, there are several matters left unresolved by the final twists, and the last pages reveal that there will be a sequel, which is unfortunately not slated for publication until October 2018, so readers have to wait a year to learn the further fates of Anne and Gyles and Thaddeus and Isabella. Walters has proven without any shadow of doubt that she has much more than one string to her bow. A brilliant read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Helga

    The Last Hours is a very well written historical novel from Minette Walters, one of my favorite authors. It is an exceptional and informative story with unique and realistic characters. The story does not end with this book and we will continue our journey in a sequel surely as amazing and captivating as the first one. Thanks to Minette and The Pigeonhole for many hours of pleasurable reading along with other amazing readers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Darkly wonderful.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vintage

    2019 is not perfect, but let’s all breathe a sigh of relief it is not 1348! The Black Death decimated approximately between 30% to 60% of Europe in the 14th century with the worst years between 1347 and 1351. The The Last Hours centers on a small English demesne in 1348 and 1349. Not very many nice or likable characters, at best they are admirable. Lady Anne is the wife of the despised Lord and mother to one of the most spiteful and viperous daughters written. A slowly developed story, TLH’s deals 2019 is not perfect, but let’s all breathe a sigh of relief it is not 1348! The Black Death decimated approximately between 30% to 60% of Europe in the 14th century with the worst years between 1347 and 1351. The The Last Hours centers on a small English demesne in 1348 and 1349. Not very many nice or likable characters, at best they are admirable. Lady Anne is the wife of the despised Lord and mother to one of the most spiteful and viperous daughters written. A slowly developed story, TLH’s deals with how their small fiefdom deals with the advent of the pestilence and also tosses in hints of an economic and power change to come. With whole towns and fiefdoms abandoned and a much smaller labor force, the surviving serf population had the opportunity to bargain for more freedom and money. Lady Anne’s intelligence and rejection of hide-bound practices of the Catholic Church like absolution over any sin, her promotion of the serfs’ rights is well done and not heavy handed. The intellectual changes that morphed the Dark Ages into the Renaissance had to start somewhere, and Minette Walters does a good job with this and not make it sound like the heroine is a bra-burning feminist that simply found herself in medieval times. The plot: Sir Richard sets off to check out a potential husband for his daughter Eleanor. While at the other demesne he and others are infected with the plague. Convent bred and skilled in herbs and infections, Lady Anne refused her husband entry to the castle and hunkers down with all the serfs behind the walls. Her husband dies, and in subsequent events there is a murder of a young serf that may involve Eleanor, the daughter, as well as a foray outside the castle by some serfs to see how bad the pestilence is and get more food. This is no adventure tale or romance. The descriptions of the plague are absolutely disgusting and on more than once occasion I had to turn the volume down. However, it is a well done historical novel. MW usually does creepy, psychological mysteries and is a very good writer. It can be read as a stand alone, but is actually the first in whaT I read will be a trilogy. The sequel is The Turn of Midnight. I will say that one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was the narrator. Helen Keeley does an amazing job and adds so much value. Cast of Characters: Sir Richard: Despite dying early in the story, his past sins of rape, incest and blatant stupidity affect future events. Lady Anne: Long-suffering and ahead of her time. Lady Eleanor: Vile but entertaining daughter that should have been drowned at birth. Don’t ask me how she was never slapped throughout the book. Thaddeus: A serf. He’s an outlier as he is tall, dark and handsome and obviously not his father’s real son. He is Lady Anne's right hand man much to her steward's display as he feels Thaddeus is a violation of God's order, serfs should stay in their place. He leads some boys into their own adventure outside the castle walls.

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