Company of Liars

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel
The first thing to say is that Karen Maitland's novel is a supremely good read. Compelling, disconcerting, at times gruesome, it's a very unusual novel that will appeal to a wide readership - part crime novel, part supernatural thriller set firmly in its historical background, it is completely enthralling.

I've been re-reading my way slowly through The Canterbury Tales - slowly because the edition I've got is in Middle English, and it's a long time since I last read any Middle English, so don't be too hard on me, and Company of Liars makes an engrossing companion piece. Set as the Black Death hits Britain in 1348, and just on the cusp of radical change in society, a group of disparate travellers are thrown together for safety on what will turn out to be a road trip from the west to the east of England.

But following the arrival of an otherworldly young girl, who is a rune reader, the lives of the travellers will change forever as one by one they start to die violently, but are there human or supernatural forces at work here?

This is compelling reading with great character studies, a strong well described historical background, and one of the best twists in the tail I've read in a long time. I heartily recommend this - you'll love it whether you're into the supernatural or historical novels, and it's completely unforgettable. Anyone who enjoyed (if that is the right word) Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death will love this, it has that same sense of oppression and menace. Wonderful thrilling reading.


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