Did you know…that the terrible plagues of the sixteenth century brought about one of the early experiments with vaccination?


Alys Clare’s forthcoming novel A Rustle of Silk is the first of an intriguing new forensic mystery series set in early seventeenth-century Devon, introducing physician-sleuth Dr Gabriel Taverner.

The book is set immediately after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. When her people are still mourning her capricious, powerful, colourful, infuriating presence and have no idea what life under the new monarch, James I, will be like.

Clare noted how James I was morbidly afraid of being killed; hardly surprising given what had happened to his father (blown up) and his mother (beheaded). On arrival in his new capital, he insisted on several layers of thick padding under his outer garments to foil an assassin’s blade, swelling him up like a toad; this, given that he had long and rather spindly legs, gave him an unfortunately top-heavy look, as if a fat and a thin man had been cut in half and wrongly reassembled.

Here Alys Clare shares some facts about Stuart England:

It was the Tudor enthusiasm for education that led to the first grammar schools, for which so many people, myself included, are enduringly thankful.

The Barber Surgeons’ Hall in sixteenth century London was situated off Muggle Street.

The word ‘coroner’ was originally ‘crowner’, since the main function of the job was to investigate any aspect of life with possible relevance to the Crown. One task that appears strange to the modern mind was to investigate where death by suicide was suspected, since all the wealth and goods of a suicide were the property of the Crown (suicide being a sin).

The terrible plagues of the sixteenth century brought about one of the early experiments with vaccination: the ‘carbuncles’ or buboes (presumably but not necessarily taken off the dead) were to be dried in the sun, then ground to powder and mixed with half a teaspoon of bugloss and endive water, the mixture to be taken in the morning on an empty stomach and four hours before eating. (You’d think that, after drinking that, you’d never want to eat again… ) Sadly, like everything else, it didn’t work, and the only way of controlling the spread of the disease was to isolate the victims and wait for them to die.

Alys Clare lives in the English countryside, where her novels are set. She went to school in Tonbridge and later studied archaeology at the University of Kent. She is the author of the Aelf Fen and Hawkenlye series of medieval mysteries. Her most recent titles include The Winter King, Blood of the South, A Shadowed Evil and The Night Wanderer.

Praise for Alys Clare:

“Entertaining . . . Skillful pacing and a healthy dose of mysticism add to the appeal”
Publishers Weekly
on The Night Wanderer

“Magical, atmospheric, and beautifully plotted . . . Thoroughly entertaining fare for historical-mystery devotees”
on A Shadowed Evil

“Historical fiction fans who enjoy such authors as Ellis Peters, Simon Beaufort, Susanna Gregory and Margaret Frazer will delight in exploring Clare’s medieval world”
Library Journal
on Blood of the South

A Rustle of Silk has just been published in hardback in the UK, and will be published in the USA in hardback, and be available in eBook, in January 2017.

Please see our website here  for further information about Alys Clare and her work.


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