Fantasy Literary Fiction Mystery

Company of Liars – Karen Maitland

September 5, 2018
Company of Liars Book Cover Company of Liars
Karen Maitland
Penguin UK
February 26, 2009

1348. Plaque has come to England. And the lies you tell will be death of you. A scarred trader in holy relics ­ A conjuror ­ A musician and his apprentice ­ A one-armed storyteller ­ A young couple on the run ­ A midwife ­ And a rune-reading girl. A group of misfits bands together to escape the plague. But in their midst lurks a curse darker and more malign that the pestilence they flee . . . 'An infectious tale of medieval intrigue' Herald 'A ghostly yarn . . . a richly evocative page-turner' Daily Express 'A wildly atmospheric and wonderfully gruesome adventure' Metro


At the onset of the black plague in 1348, a group of travellers band together to seek refuge against the disease and journey to a safe location. Each member of the group has a hidden secret and one, in particular, has something more sinister to conceal. The secrets they each reveal are shocking and illustrate the type of characters they are and the backgrounds they each come from. Karen has a wonderful ability to capture not only the characterisation but the interaction and underlying motives within the group. As each secret is revealed one by one the group start dying. Must the killer be amongst them or are they being hunted? The final secret is a surprise and keeps you guessing right to the end.

The plot is engrossing and holds you in a spell, the characters are superb, and the pace is perfect. The sense of time and its hardships are brought to life, and the writing creates such magnificent images of landscape, hardships and a constant atmosphere of foreboding. Karen has this wonderful ability to characterise the landscape and give it its own mesmerising role in the story.

The Black Plague between 1348 and 1350 would kill over 1.5 million people, over one-third of the population of England. Amongst this great plague was set a supernatural and religious supposition. One graphic testimony can be found at St Mary’s, Ashwell, Hertfordshire, where an anonymous hand has carved a harrowing inscription for the year 1349: ‘Wretched, terrible, destructive year, the remnants of the people alone remain.’

It’s just a pity that a novel like this comes to an end, and the only thing left to do is seek out another Karen Maitland book. She is definitely the queen of the medieval historical thriller. This book is well and truly rooted in my favourites shelf and Karen is one of my favourite authors.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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