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The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey.

June 21, 2018

The Western Wind
 The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey. Grove Press,  2018.


4 stars

A strange and compelling mystery set in a medieval English village where the priest and his people try to deal with the unexpected death of an important resident.

Samatha Harvey was born in Kent in 1975 and has degrees in philosophy and creative writing.  Her two previous novels have been considered for prestigious awards.  She lives at Bath and teaches Creative Writing there.  She is very knowledgeable about medieval theology and is surprisingly able to write about people’s concepts in ways that are both accurate for their time and relevent  for those of us today who are still bothered by questions of death, evil, and loss, about guilt and responsibilities.

The priest narrates what happens when a prominent villager is drowned.  Was it murder, suicide, or an accident?  For the people of the parish, steeped in the medieval belief system, the real question was whether or not he was in hell, purgatory, or heaven. For them it was a complicated question depending on whether or not he had received “last rites” or met other requirements.   Then the action moves backward day by day until the complicated events surrounding the death are explained. In the process we become involved with the small circle of people in the village. At the same time we are resolving the drowning, a host of other mysteries and misunderstanding are also being revealed.

The Western Wind works well as a hard-to-decipher mystery, but it is also a deeply rooted narrative about human interactions and longings.  Its characters’ religious beliefs will seem strange to most readers, but their humanity and their unanswerable questions shine through the centuries. This is the first of Harvey’s books I have read, and I intend to look for her others.  I strongly recommend this mystery.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    June 22, 2018 8:56 am

    Marilyn: i just wanted to tell you that after reading your review of Andrea Carter’s mystery, i bought all three of hers and took them with me to Ireland on our visit in May. it was great fun to read them while we were there. she does a nice job describing place and characters in that setting. so thanks much for introducing me to her work.

    we are away all of June but we would love to have tea with you in July if that works out.

    blessings, marie

    • June 23, 2018 7:16 pm

      Glad you enjoyed Carter’s books. And that the Ireland she describes is as real as she makes it seem. Maybe I can borrow the books of hers that I haven’t read.
      I’d enjoy getting together when you get back. Just give me a call or email. You are the one with a schedule to consider.

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