The Service of the Dead – Candace Robb

Candace Robb is another of those writers who has been on my List for a very long time despite the fact that her writing is not my very favorite. Her books are go-tos, reliably good reads when I feel like picking up a book from a certain period, but her characters do not linger with me once the book is put down; it’s one of those examples when I feel an invisible barrier between me and the writing. Not sure if this will make sense, but Candace Robb is a writer whose books mean reading someone’s writing, as opposed to losing myself – and the writer – in the work.

That being said, I don’t ever regret picking up a Candace Robb. If the writing is not transparent, it is very good – for the most part, I believe what I’m told and trust the world-building. Certainly, this particular book contains some of the most realistic depictions of looking after large dogs I remember seeing; our heroine Kate’s two wolfhounds, Lille and Ghent, are main characters, and are present during most of the book. I just wish I knew whether it was my failing or the author’s that either I never learned or didn’t learn till the end (sorry – one problem with writing the review a while after finishing the book) whether Lille was male or female. And, actually, not to be contrary, but there may have been a little too much of looking after the dogs … The plot was driven largely by Kate taking the dogs out for walks in one direction or other, and by how well trained they were.

The one area where I seriously questioned the milieu was the idea that Kate ran her little inn as a secret place of illicit assignation. It never sat well. It’s an interesting idea (and actually similar to one I came across in another book a while ago), and I could see it happening: young woman is approached by someone who offers her money to use her rented room as a place to meet with a lover, young woman realizes this is an untapped vein she should be taking advantage of… But it just didn’t work here for some reason. The fact that Kate is twenty years old – a fact which faded in my mind as I read, so that when it was reiterated late in the book I thought it must be a mistake – was hard to accept in the circumstances. A fifteenth-century widow living alone and taking care of business is certainly not impossible – but at twenty – ?

On the whole, it was – as I expect from the author – a good read, and kept me guessing. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve read this year, nor by any means the worst. It was solid.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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