The Service of the Dead

Written by Candace Robb
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Candace Robb re-emerges! As a fan of her Owen Archer mysteries, I anxiously awaited the beginning of this new series starring a young widow from York, raising her late husband’s illegitimate children and running what can only be described as an unusual household.

Raised on the northern marches of England, Kate Clifford learned early how to be tough, self-protective and resilient. When she is left widowed and drowning in debt created by her late husband, Kate rises above what could easily destroy her and finds ways to pay off the debt and establish herself in the male-dominated society of 1399. In the midst of the political upheaval created by warring factions led by Richard II on one side and his estranged cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke, on the other, Kate needs to keep her head above the fray.

Kate has creatively turned one of her properties into a guest house and clandestinely rented bedchambers to the well-healed, powerful York merchants who need a secret meeting place with their mistresses. But when a mysterious, unnamed guest is brutally murdered, Kate must find a way to resolve the “problem” and ensure that she and her family are not pulled under by a scandal that will destroy everything she has attempted to build.

Kate Clifford is a wonderful creation, hard-nosed in some respects, compassionate and caring on the other. The characters that surround her – from the interesting personalities that people her household to those who could destroy her – are drawn meticulously by Robb. Even the labyrinthine streets of York are drawn with care and an eye to detail.

I look forward to the next installment of this delightful series!