The First Vial
In her debut novel, Heinrichs doesn’t manage to avoid the pitfalls often seen in first works. The characters are two-dimensional, and the plot sometimes overcomes the most determined suspension of disbelief. Young and beautiful Katherine, Lady of Crenfield Castle, is saddled with a whiny little tyrant of a husband. Luckily, he’s killed off in the first act, under mysterious circumstances that just happen to throw Katherine in with the handsome, rough Victor, Katherine’s rich liege lord and neighbor. It soon becomes apparent that the maniacal village priest will do anything to secure Katherine’s land. To add to this, people begin dropping of the dreaded Black Death and the village doctor, one of the more well-developed characters in the novel, is powerless to help. But when a main character comes down with plague, he easily cures her by lancing a bubo, leaving (in addition to the medical dubiousness of this explanation) the mystery of why he didn’t bother to try this on his other patients. Had Heinrichs been able to prolong the foreboding atmosphere she conjured so well at the beginning of the novel, the plot would have greatly benefited. It would also have been wise to leave doubt as to who the villain was, adding to the suspense and allowing him to be revealed later on. Though the novel is hampered by weak points, Heinrichs has crafted a story that has plenty of action and a sizable bit of romance. In addition, the prose is straightforward and well written. Despite its faults, this is a respectable first try and a readable novel.