Here’s the blurb
Colmar, 1353 CE
Gritta, Appel, and Efi managed to survive the Black Death, only to find that they are in desperate need of money. With limited options and lots of obstacles, they band together to become alewives – brewing and selling ale in the free Alsatian town of Colmar. But when an elderly neighbor is discovered dead in her house, the alewives cannot convince the sheriff and the town council that her death wasn’t an accident, it was murder. As the body count piles up, the ale flows and mystery is afoot!
Set in the tumultuous years after the most devastating pandemic the world has ever experienced, The Alewives is a playful romp through a dark time, when society was reeling from loss and a grieving population attempted to return to normal, proving that with the bonds of love, friendship, and humor, the human spirit will always continue to shine.
The Alewives is a fantastically well-written murder mystery set in the immediate aftermath of the Black Death, with delightful characters and a sinister murderer and thief, at the heart of all the problems. Set in the tannery area of Colmar, something smells bad.
The three main characters of Gritta, Appel, and Efi are all glorious creations – Grita with her useless husband and horde of children (she had 12, you see), Appel with her mysterious nighttime activities, and young Efi, who has the sense of a young kid goat at the beginning of the tale.
This story is immersive and filled with just enough tension and humour to make even a story about those who survived the Black Death an absolute delight to read. The humour is well constructed, the antics of the three women, acting a little outside the ‘law’ in a deeply patriarchal society that doesn’t allow women to brew their own ale for profit, artfully created, and even the Friar, Wikerus, is a sympathetic character, in the end. The three women are put upon. Society is against them, as is the sheriff (all the male characters are dismissive of the women, but they get on with it, doing all they can to circumnavigate the obstacles placed in their path), and the church, and just about everyone else, but they triumph.
The mystery itself is really well constructed, as are the red herrings. I didn’t know who the culprit(s) (no spoilers here) were until the big reveal.
A short, sharp, snappy, hugely entertaining, medieval mystery that portrays the realities of life at the time, with just the right amount of humour to make it thoroughly entertaining. A well-deserved 5/5 from me!
Meet the Author
Elizabeth R. Andersen’s debut novel, The Scribe, launched in July of 2021. Although she spent many years of her life as a journalist, independent fashion designer, and overworked tech employee, there have always been two consistent loves in her life: writing and history. She finally decided to do something about this and put them both together.
Elizabeth lives in the Seattle area with her long-suffering husband and young son. On the weekends she usually hikes in the stunning Cascade mountains to hide from people and dream up new plotlines and characters.
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Elizabeth is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.