Thursday 1 April 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ The Plague Letters by V L Valentine

Serpent's Tail
1 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


London, 1665. Hidden within a growing pile of corpses, one victim of the pestilence stands out: a young woman with a shorn head and pieces of twine delicately tied around each ankle.

Symon Patrick, rector of St. Paul's Covent Garden, cannot say exactly why this corpse amongst the many in his churchyard should give him pause. Longing to do good, he joins a group of medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague, each man more peculiar and splenetic than the next. But there is another - unknown to The Society for the Prevention and Cure of Plague - who is performing his own terrible experiments upon unwilling plague-ridden subjects.

It is Penelope - Symon's unwanted yet unremovable addition to his household - who may yet shed light on the matter. Far more than what she appears, she is already on the hunt. But the dark presence that enters the houses of the sick will not stop, and has no mercy.

πŸ“– My thoughts...

There is something inherently evil lurking in the streets of London in 1665 which is hiding in plain sight of the plague victims who are unceremoniously thrown into stinking lime pits. Mutilated corpses who bear signs of the deadly disease, along with other mysterious desecrations, are brought to the attention of Symon Patrick, the rector of St.Paul’s Covent Garden, whose conscience is stricken at the sight of these poor unfortunate souls.

With the plague spreading at an alarming rate there is little anyone can do to halt its progress but the author shares a fascinating insight into some of the attempted cures which stop nothing short of eye of newt and toe of frog. Joining together with a group of medical men who seek to find a cure for the pestilence, Symon is inadvertently drawn into the deadly race to find a solution. 

The Plague Letters is a decidedly complex crime mystery which brings this time of deadly virus to brisk awareness. There much to take in, both in terms of understanding the terror of this deadly disease which is sweeping through London with unrelenting mercy, and the need for some sort of resolution on behalf of those unfortunate souls who find themselves victims of a depraved killer. The complicated plot, at the centre of the story, namely finding the serial killer, is helped enormously by the addition of Penelope, a strong female protagonist, who arrives from nowhere, and who, very quickly, becomes part of Symon’s unusual household, and is a great help in the quest for the killer.

There were times when I found the plot a little over complicated and there’s an abundance of characters who are, in the main, quite an odd bunch, some more likeable than others, and one or two who you really wouldn’t want to meet in a plague ridden alley way. Having said that, the story is well researched and gives an atmospheric and rather gritty look at this plague-ridden time in our history.

About the Author

V.L. Valentine is a senior science editor at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., where she has led award-winning coverage of global disease outbreaks including Ebola and the Zika virus. She has a master's in the history of medicine from University College London and her non-fiction work has been published by NPR, The New York Times, The Smithsonian Channel and Science Magazine. The Plague Letters is her first novel.

Twitter @valentinevikki #ThePlagueLetters


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