The philosophy of time, destiny and the stars pervade this intricate murder mystery about a young woman branded as a harlot, and her progress to redemption. The novel is inspired by almanacks: little diaries combining calendars, astronomy, puzzles and predictions that were once second only to the Bible in popularity. Each chapter is headed by one of 50 authentic riddles to involve and intrigue the reader.
1752, Midsummer. Britons consult their almanacs during the confusing disappearance of 11 days – time lost to realign the calendar with the solar year. 22-year-old Tabitha Hart, a London lady of pleasure, returns to her home village of Netherlea, following a desperate summons from her mother, whose job as the parish Searcher is to lay out the dead and record their passing. Tabitha arrives too late, finding her mother drowned and a series of cryptic notes in her almanac that describe her terror of a pursuer she calls ‘D’.
Vowing to avenge her mother’s death, Tabitha works her way into the heart of Netherlea’s great estate. At harvest-time, the grisly murder of Netherlea’s young heir sees her join forces with hack writer Nat Starling, a libertine on a mission he refuses to disclose. As September’s calendar change brings confusion, Tabitha falls in love with Nat and they begin a race against time to unmask ‘D’. But as the sun retreats and snow cuts Netherlea off from the county, Tabitha and Nat are separated and forced to face the darkest hours of their lives. With the year predicted to meet a ‘violent bloody end’, Tabitha must face ‘D’ alone.
Praise for The Almanack
‘What a thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing read! I was enthralled by the riddles and puzzles and missteps that the author wrong-footed us with, leading us through many twists and surprises to a satisfying conclusion.’ – Paula Brackston, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter.
’Martine Bailey has done it again: impeccable research, compelling riddles and a highly intelligent narrative. Another gem of a book from this wonderful author. As clever and beautiful as a tapestry.’ – Rebecca Mascull, author of The Daughters of Ironbridge and The Visitors.
‘Memorable characters, a compelling mystery, authentic riddles – The Almanack totally drew me into its gripping world.’ – Alison Layland, author of Riverflow
‘Fabulous! Ingeniously plotted, hauntingly atmospheric murder mystery that satisfied on multiple levels and left me begging for more.’ – Deborah Swift, author of A Divided Inheritance and the Pepys’ Women trilogy
‘I fell into the world completely. The level of detail, the authenticity, is utterly compelling, yet this knowledge is used with such a deft hand that it’s only when you emerge at the other end that you stop to wonder how she does it. Gorgeous!’ – Sarah Louise Jasmon, author of The Summer of Secrets
‘An intricately plotted thriller with incredibly well drawn characters and fascinating historical facts, The Almanack also examines the nature of time and destiny, the conflict of science and superstition in eighteenth century England. A murderously dark and delightful 5 star read.’ – Melissa Bailey, author of Beyond the Sea