Saturday, 21 April 2018

Review: The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle

Michael Joseph • 416 pages • June 2018

The year is 1615 and celebrated couple Robert and Frances Carr have been arrested for murder. She is young, beautiful, and a member of the notorious Howard family. He is one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, risen from nothing yet has the King’s ear by his side. Both of them are suspected but the crime is not as black and white as it seems. Is Frances an innocent or is she the witch so many believe her to be? Is Robert telling the truth when he says he knows nothing of the murder? In between all these questions is King James I, for it is his secret that is at stake. One of them is a killer, but who has committed the murder in question?

There aren’t many historical thrillers out there - not a lot that I’ve come across anyway - that are set in the seventeenth century. Once the Tudor line died out, the reign of the first Stuart monarch is one that you rarely come across in fiction and I think this is what drew me to this story in the first place. This little snippet of the early 1600’s that is so often forgotten about helped to keep the mystery of the story alive, much more so than had it been set in a more popular period. It gave it a fresh feel but I’ll be honest, the premise of the plot was enough to spark my interest. A historical crime thriller set in the seventeenth century? Yes, please. And besides, just look at that COVER.

I’m a big fan of dual narrators, especially if they’re well executed and The Poison Bed was flawless in its narrative structure. The chapters alternate between Frances and Robert as they each tell their parts of the story leading up to the murder, each chapter fittingly titled either ‘Her’ or ‘Him’, which I found helped with the ambiguity of the plot. Very little is revealed and around half way through you begin to feel a little too comfortable which, like any good mystery novel, is the perfect time to shake things up. You get the know the characters as the story progresses but the mystery is a tough one to figure out. No spoilers of course but this is a book that will keep you on your toes.

One thing I enjoy about historical novels is the authors ability to write a story based on real events and real people. Like I said, had this been a novel set in a more well-known time in history then the mystery of the story might have been lost, but prior to opening this book I had never heard of Frances or Robert Carr. Reading Fremantle’s fictional representations of them made me interested to know about the real people and if you're anything like me you'll want to do the same - just don’t do so until after you’ve finished the book unless you want spoilers!

The Poison Bed is a sharp, well-constructed mystery thriller that offers a fresh take on the historical novel. If you’re a fan of historical fiction then I would definitely recommend you check this out when it becomes available in June because I loved the time I spent with this story and the characters. I’ll be sure to check out Fremantle’s other works in the future so many thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Overall rating: 4 stars

If you'd like to check out my other reviews you can find them here. Until next time: happy reading, fellow booklovers.

My arc copy of The Poison Bed was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.


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