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Second Sleep

Robert Harris’s new novel

When I spotted Robert Harris’s new novel, The Second Sleep, I wasn’t looking for something to read. I was waiting for my husband to finish his shopping, but Barnes and Noble is a dangerous place.

The book fumes got me.

And this cover.

It is reminiscent of any number of books I have read before by P. C. Doherty and Ellis Peters . Historical mysteries set on the Middle Ages are my chocolate. Having read, Fatherland many years ago, I knew this would be a new genre for Harris, but I was very intrigued. I mean, look at that cover.

Thus, I ignored my Christmas wrapping, baking, and husband and curled up with a Christmas present to myself. At first, it bore all the hallmarks of the genre, right down to the chapter titles, but then there were new locks on the murdered priest’s door, and my radar went off. Historically, that’s not right for 1468, not the kind of locks they were talking about. And the women wore bonnets. What was up with that?

I’ve encountered much slapdash editing in Big 5 publishing lately, so I began to feel a growing sense of disappointment. Another author I generally liked was undone by carelessness. Sigh.

But then, there was an error so big, so egregious, that it had to be on purpose, and my mind was blown. I understood: there were no anachronistic errors. It was 1468, but not the one I’d expected. This is a new, post-apocalyptic 1468.

And folks, this book is amazing in its capacity to meld genres into something altogether wonderful. Is it perfect? No. I think the end is a little abrupt, though I get where he’s coming from. On balance, the rest is so good that I can forgive the end.

And I might even go back and re-read some of his others.

[Book #1 of 2020’s reading list.]

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