A Rustle of Silk: A Gabriel Taverner Mystery

Written by Alys Clare
Review by Bethany Latham

Queen Elizabeth has just died, and Gabriel Taverner, former naval surgeon, hangs out his shingle on land in rural Devon. Not everyone seems happy to have a new physician in the village: unpleasant “gifts” show up on his doorstep. When a decomposed body is discovered at a nearby quay and the husband of Taverner’s beloved sister disappears, matters hit even closer to home.

Clare, known for two successful medieval mystery series, has here chosen the later setting of the reign of King James I. The doctor as a sort of precursor to forensic scientist is a familiar device; Taverner is teamed up with the local coroner in what looks to be an ongoing partnership. While there are some grisly descriptions and a body that hangs around unburied for far too long, this is not a stomach-turning forensic thriller. The focus is on character introduction and development, especially as this is the debut novel for a new series. Certain aspects of the plotting are telegraphed in ways that may mitigate the suspense, but the mystery element is competently handled and the setting convincing. Fans of character-centered mysteries will find much that appeals in this promising series debut by a well-established author.