I have certain obsessive subjects in reading, and one of those is the plague in England, both in the 1300s and the 1600s. So, back in 2008 when I came across Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, set in the plague year of 1348 in England and mirroring the story of The Canterbury Tales, I was thrilled. This book remains one of my all-time favorites, and one I intend to go back and read again soon. There are great characters, mystery, medieval history, and did I mention the plague? Karen Maitland is an English author who has written several of my favorite books, The Owl Killers being on equal footing with Company of Liars. On a side note about Karen. I was having trouble finding one of her books, and I wrote her telling her of my problem. She sent me a signed copy of the book and a lovely postcard of Lincoln, a city rich in medieval history, where she then lived.
I'm including a book description for Company of Liars and a biographical sketch from Karen's website at http://karenmaitland.com/ She has led a fascinating life, and her website is awesome. So, if you haven't been fortunate enough to discover Karen Maitland's writing yet, please read on and become acquainted with one of my best experiences in reading to date.
The year is 1348. The
Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine
desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the
certain death that is running inexorably toward them.
Each member of
this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller
who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed
storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a
painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they
seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all--propelling
these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.
About Karen Maitland, from Her Website:
In medieval legends the black
dog or black shuck is thought to be a sign of death, but my life was
once saved by a black dog which appeared out of nowhere.
I recently moved to the lovely county of Devon, having lived for a
number of years in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln, which
together with the wild salt-marshes of Norfolk, provide great
inspiration for my novels. But, like my characters in Company of Liars,
I’ve spent much of my life traveling, spending my early childhood in
the sunshine of Malta and later journeying to Iceland and Greenland. In
my working life I’ve done all kinds of jobs from hospital worker to
lecturer, egg packing to dance-drama, to before I finally started
writing in 1996.
One of my jobs took me to Nigeria for eighteen months where I lived
the medieval life for real in a rural village in Nigeria, without
running water, electricity or sanitation. A group of lepers who begged
in the village kindly taught me enough words of Hausa to be able to
bargain for food in the market place. One of the great joys of living in
Africa was that I got to raise a duiker fawn and an orphaned bush-cat. I
even had the thrill of baby sitting two lion cubs which needed bottle
But life in Nigeria got pretty terrifying when civil war broke out.
One day I was trapped alone in a narrow street and found myself
surrounded by men wielding machetes. Having seen someone hacked to
pieces the night before, I was under no illusions about what they
intended to do. But as they closed in a big black dog suddenly appeared
at my side, growling savagely at anyone who approached me. The dog led
me safely home, pressed against me all the way. It stood guard behind me
as I unlocked my door, then it turned and ran off. I never saw it
again, but I owe my life to that amazing black dog.
I began writing historical novels
after I became fascinated by the medieval period having visited the
beguinage (city of women) in Bruges, which I then used in my novel The Owl Killers. I have now written four medieval thrillers, Company of Liars, The Owl Killers, The Gallows Curse
and Falcons of Fire and Ice which came out in August 2012. I’m hard at
work on the next two books ‘The Vanishing Witch’ and The Raven’s Head.
As well as my own stand-only medieval thrillers, I also write joint
medieval crime novels with a wonderful group of historical authors known
as the Medieval Murderers. They include Philip Gooden, Susanna Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight, and Ian Morson.
The Medieval Murderers Joint Crime Novels