**The Plague Letters was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Viper Books for having me on the tour.**
WHAT IS ONE MORE CORPSE, WHEN ALL AROUND YOU ARE DYING…
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…
The Plague Letters follows the tragic course of the Plague during 1665 and the terrifying discovery that there is a serial killer within London’s walls.
For the last year, we have all suffered and many have lost so much due to Covid-19 which made this an even more poignant read. The situation was so similar during the plague but yet so different. I felt The Plague Letters really highlighted the advancements in medicine and technology that we’ve had since then. It was quite remarkable to read about how it used to be done. Of course, you’d expect a lot to change in 350+ years but it was almost fascinating as this was the days of slavery. Young, orphaned boys working in graveyards would seem horrifying to us now, but then it was the ‘norm’.
Rector Symon Patrick’s maid goes missing and it isn’t until her battered and plague-torn body is discovered amongst the dead brought to Symon’s graveyard that her untimely demise takes a much darker turn. Ink markings are strewn across her legs, twine bracelets are tied tightly to her wrists and ankles, and her golden hair is shorn off. Symon is horrified and his entire household staff is drowned in their own fear once they find out the truth about the missing girl. But that’s just the beginning of the horrendous acts the serial killer performs, and as more women and girls turn up with mutilated bodies, the urgency to find the killer increases. The Plague Society (a group of awful men) tries to dismiss the case but Symon and his new and mysterious housemaid, Penelope, will not give up until they find out who committed the crime. Penelope was saved by Symon when she took herself to his church on her near deathbed for help.
Whilst Symon was the main protagonist of this story, I found him at times to be insufferable. Hence why my ‘real hero’ of this story is Penelope. Symon’s pining for Elizabeth was bordering on extremely painful at times and it made his character less likable for me. Although, I do find in some ways he had quite a progressive mind as he was willing to work alongside Penelope. I never necessarily felt that he saw any of his house staff as inferior to him which was unusual for a man of that time, but I appreciated it. It brought up my overall feeling towards him from annoying to tolerable.
I thought Penelope was really fantastic and given her level of education for 1665, extremely smart. She stood out against all the other characters as she had a steely determination to keep fighting, and never stopped until the killer was found. Her fearlessness was amazing, and I feel her difficult upbringing was part of the reason she was so fearless. She’d been through so many horrid times living with her aunt and uncle that once she’d escaped them, she felt truly free. I think the hunt for the killer gave her a purpose in life during such horrid times. It likely helped to distract both Symon and herself from the horrendous outcome of the plague.
I thoroughly enjoyed this dark and mysterious whodunnit and would rate it 4.5/5 stars. I felt the pacing was fairly quick which kept me hooked for the entire book, and it was well written and researched.