Alys Clare’s latest book, A Rustle of Silk, is set in 17th century Devon. Here, author Alys Clare introduces her new forensic mystery series and physician-sleuth Dr Gabriel Taverner...
A Rustle of Silk starts off the Gabriel Taverner series, 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. Gabriel has been forced to leave the life he loves – as a ship’s surgeon – because of an accidental blow to the head that has left him with incurable seasickness, and, having completed his training in London as a physician, he is now trying to make a living ashore in his native Devon.
England in the early seventeenth century was a land eager to expand outwards into the world. Although the book is set in rural Devon, the links with distant lands are already evident: in ports such as Plymouth and Dartmouth, ships tie up to unload cargoes of goods largely unknown in Britain: silk, exotic woods, ivory, spices. Explorers bring home potatoes, tobacco and strange, potent drugs found in the depths of dark, steamy, southern jungles. Shakespeare, the eternal observer and commentator on his age, puts travellers’ tales in the mouths of his characters: Ariel speaks of ‘still-vex’d Bermoothes’, Othello refers to ‘men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders’, and poor, misshapen Caliban, witch’s son, is the sea monster of nightmares.
It must have been an exciting age to live in. Without doubt, it’s a stimulating and challenging one to write about.
“As always, Clare has carefully researched the period she is writing about and offers authentic, engaging historical detail, but her real gift is as a superb storyteller whose clever, twisty plots; believable characters; and skilful writing will engross the reader from first page to last.” Booklist
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