The Last Hours (2018)

by Minette Walters

Minette Walters, psychological mystery writer extraordinaire, switched to historical fiction with The Last Hours, a novel that looked surprisingly relevant during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Last Hours was published in 2018, so Walters couldnít have known how timely her foray into historical fiction would be. Modern medicine aside, itís striking to see the parallels between 2020 and the Black Deathís rampage of Southern Englandís Dorseteshire (as it was then spelled) in 1348Ė49.

The Black Death arrived, spread, and killed quickly. Decisions about what to do had to be made hurriedly. Superstitious people believed the plague is a punishment from God, and religious people think that God would protect them. Waltersís characters attempt to understand why the serf Gyles Startout survived when all his traveling companies died. Lady Anne, a woman ahead of her time, barricades the people of Develish in a manor house surrounded by a moat. Anyone exposed to the outside world, like Startout, must quarantine for 14 days before being allowed in. Everyone within the manor house survives, while other Dorseteshire towns are decimated. Waltersís hibernating characters wonder how people would know when itís safe to come out.

The Last Hours and its sequel, The Turn of Midnight, offer inspiring examples of people whose enlightened thinking and courageous actions ensured the survival of those who listened to them.


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