Book Review: Gallows Hill by Darcy Coates

If you’re looking for the perfect spooky read for the fall season, look no further than Gallows Hill by Darcy Coates. The story follows the heroine, Margot, who was abandoned by her parents at a young age and is now back at her childhood home for her parents funeral. Margot is left the house in their will, along with Gallows Hill Winery. As Margot is introduced to her new inheritance, she hears rumors that the land is cursed and was the cause of her parents death. This book takes you on a journey of grief, acceptance, and sacrifice from start to finish.

While I normally don’t read horror, this book kept me in it’s grip the entire time and made me not want to turn out the lights! I highly recommend this suspenseful thriller by Darcy Coates, especially for those who are fans of Phoebe Wynne and Tana French.

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Book Review: Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May takes you back to the years after WWI in a novel that is reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby but with magic intertwined. Wild and Wicked Things is filled with the glittering parties of the roaring twenties and the danger of not only new love but also what happens when friends grow apart. The story follows Annie as she moves to Crow Island where magic is prohibited and she knows no one but a long lost friend. Annie is drawn further and further into the world of magic by her magnetic neighbor, Emmeline and she begins to push the boundaries of everything she knows about the world and herself. This gothic novel makes you fall in love with the characters and the world that Francesca May has created. 

May leaves a trail of wreckage behind in her wake and left me with a book hangover I couldn’t quite cure. This was simply a book I could not put down. This novel features everything I never knew I needed: diverse characters (LGBTQ+ included), magic, and murder. I loved this book, even if it did have some flaws, but what book doesn’t? I highly recommend for fans of The Once and Future Witches. 

Rating: 4.0/5.0

The Execution of Ælfheah of Canterbury

Ælfheah was born in 954 in either Gloucestershire or Somerset, England. It is thought that Ælfheah was born into Anglo-Saxon nobility. Early in his life Ælfheah entered the Benedictine Monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire as a monk, but shortly thereafter he transferred to Bath Abbey where he became an anchorite. As an anchorite, Ælfheah would have entered into a strict religious life in which he would take last rites and then be enclosed into a solitary room. This room would often be attached to the parish church with a small window allowing for a servant or another monk to bring food and water to him. During his time as an anchorite, Ælfheah would have devoted his time to prayer and meditation. 

It is unknown how long Ælfheah led his life as an anchorite before he was actually promoted within Bath Abbey to an Episcopate. He was then elected as Abbot of Bath Abbey sometime in the late 970s or early 980s and appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dunstan. During his time as abbot, Ælfheah enacted stricter rules for the monks within the abbey; making sure that they followed the Rule of Saint Benedict which was written 400 years prior. These rules included a structure for the Benedictine way of life in a monastery with special attention paid to obedience, the role of the abbot, silence, humility, and even sleep, among others. 

During this early period of Ælfheah’s appointment as Abbot of Bath Abbey, a new king came to power in England, Æthelred the Unready. Æthelred became king in 978 at only 10 years old after the death of his father, Edward the Martyr. During his reign, Æthelred the Unready dealt with several threats to the English kingdom including a war with the Danes which would last several decades and an increase in viking invasions throughout the 980s and 990s. 

In 984, Ælfheah was appointed as the Bishop of Winchester by Archbishop Dunstan, who had now become one of the young king’s key advisors and counselors. During his time as the Bishop of Winchester, Ælfheah oversaw the construction of a large organ within the cathedral which supposedly could be heard up to a mile away and was so large that it took over twenty men to play it. Unfortunately, the organ does not survive today. Ælfheah also expanded the churches within his district and promoted the cult of Saint Swithin, who had been the Bishop of Winchester over a century before. 

During the 980s and 990s, new viking invasions began in England. However, in 991 the young King Æthelred agreed to pay a sum to the viking invaders in order for the invasions to stop. This was only successful for a short amount of time as invasions resumed again just three years later. One of Ælfheah’s most notable, and later relevant, accomplishments during his bishopric was the negotiation of a peace treaty with the vikings after a majorly damaging viking invasion in 994 in which they attempted to burn the city of London to the ground, luckily unsuccessfully. The viking King of Norway at this time was Olaf Tryggvason who actually participated in the raid of 994. It is thought that after this raid, as one of the most notable religious figures in England at the time, Ælfheah provided guidance to King Æthelred in regard to a peace treaty with the vikings, more specifically with Olaf Tryggvason. 

After the peace treaty, it is thought that Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway, actually converted to, or at least confirmed, his belief in Christianity with the aid of Ælfheah’s influence. When he returned to Norway, he began to impose Christianity on the areas under his control in Norway, largely communities along the coast. It is also thought that Olaf took Christianity via missionaries to the Shetland, Faroe, and Orkney islands, as well as to Iceland and Greenland. While Olaf did seem to stick to his word in terms of not raiding England after the peace treaty, other vikings did continue to invade. 

In 1006, Ælfheah was promoted to be Archbishop of Canterbury. The following year he journeyed to Rome in order to meet with the pope, at the time Pope John XVIII. During Ælfheah’s journey, he was actually robbed by a gang of highwaymen but luckily escaped with his life. 

While Ælfheah did several notable things during his tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, this blog is dedicated to Medieval Murder and so we will skip these things and move on to his death just four years later in 1011. In around 1011, the viking raiders largely made up of Danish and Swedish vikings invaded England led by Thorkell the Tall. However, this time they focused their attack on Canterbury after having successfully sacked many English cities up the coast. The raiders were described as “an immense raiding army” by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and was made up of men who were coming from a career of violence and robbery. The invasion lasted almost a month as they laid siege to Canterbury from around the 3rd to the 29th of September 1011. 

Unfortunately, after a stong defense by the citizens of Canterbury, the city was sacked by the vikings. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle “In this year, between the Nativity of St. Mary and Michaelmas, they beset Canterbury, and entered therein through treachery; for Elfmar delivered the city to them, whose life Archbishop Elfeah formerly saved.” Once the vikings entered the city they “seized Archbishop Elfeah, and Elfward the king’s steward, and Abbess Leofruna, and Bishop Godwin; and Abbot Elfmar they suffered to go away. And they took therein all the men, and husbands, and wives; and it was impossible for any man to say how many they were; and in the city they continued afterwards as long as they would. And, when they had surveyed all the city, they then returned to their ships, and led the archbishop with them.” Once they had captured everyone who they deemed of importance and plundered everything of value, the vikings burned Canterbury Cathedral. 

Ælfheah was kept hostage by the vikings for seven months during which time he refused to allow a ransom be paid for his release. As the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states 

“Then on the Saturday was the army much stirred against the bishop; because he would not promise them any fee, and forbade that any man should give anything for him. They were also much drunken; for there was wine brought them from the south. Then took they the bishop, and led him to their hustings, on the eve of the Sunday after Easter, which was the thirteenth before the calends of May; and there they then shamefully killed him. They overwhelmed him with bones and horns of oxen; and one of them smote him with an axe-iron on the head; so that he sunk downwards with the blow; and his holy blood fell on the earth, whilst his sacred soul was sent to the realm of God.” 

“The corpse in the morning was carried to London; and the bishops, Ednoth and Elfhun, and the citizens, received him with all honour, and buried him in St. Paul’s minster; where God now showeth this holy martyr’s miracles. When the tribute was paid, and the peace-oaths were sworn, then dispersed the army as widely as it was before collected. Then submitted to the king five and forty of the ships of the enemy; and promised him, that they would defend this land, and he should feed and clothe them.” 

Ælfheah was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to be murdered. The leader of the viking raiders that killed Ælfheah, Thorkell the Tall, supposedly attempted to stop the angry mob from killing Ælfheah. He was so disgusted and appalled that they would kill the Archbishop that he then joined forces with King Æthelred. 

Ælfheah of Canterbury was venerated as a saint fifty years later and is now known as Saint Ælfheah of Canterbury, one of the martyred saints.


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

“About Anchorites.” Hermits and Anchorites of England. University of Exeter. 2010. 

Cavendish, Richard. “Archbishop Aelfheah of Canterbury Murdered by Vikings.” History Today 62, no. 4 (2012): 9.

The Rule of Saint Benedict. Translated by Leonard Joseph Doyle. United States: Liturgical Press, 2001.

“Olaf Tryggvason.” Britannica. Williams, Ann. Æthelred the Unready: the ill-counselled king. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Academic, 2003.

Book Review: THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL by Hester Fox

The Witch of Willow Hall is a wonderful debut by Hester Fox from 2018. The Witch of Willow Hall follows the Montrose family who has been discarded from Boston due to scandal and have moved to a newly built country house. The family attempt to find normalcy in their newfound setting, but Lydia, the middle sister of three, finds herself surrounded by bumps in the night, a swirling romance, and the death of loved one. Lydia is forced to follow her heart, embrace her power, and deal with the depressing nature of death. The Witch of Willow Hall is an atmospheric tale perfect for fans of Louisa Morgan and Nicola Cornick.

I picked up this novel for the gothic vibes and for the inclusion of witchcraft, but I stayed for the story, the relationship building, and the elements of a traditional gothic ghost story. I did not expect the romantic elements of the story but enjoyed them nonetheless. While this novel does not have as heavy a focus on witchcraft as I was expecting (it is titled The Witch of Willow Hall afterall), Lydia’s encounters with the supernatural more than make up for it. I recommend this book if you’re looking for a book that’s hard to put down.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Book Review: The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

Sarah Maine’s debut novel The House Between Tides (2014) is a beautiful examination of relationships, grief, and the impact of emotions on those around us. Set on an isolated island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, The House Between Tides is dual point of view novel, from the point of view of Hetty, a woman who inherits Muirlan House from her grandmother, and Beatrice, the wife of renowned painter, Theodore Blake, who lived on the island during the early 1900s. When Hetty arrives on the island to examine the house she finds out that the bones of a murder victim have been found under the floorboards and she spends the rest of the novel researching the history of the house and trying to come to terms with what she wants. While Hetty is researching the house, we are seeing the history of the house unfold from Beatrice’s perspective. 

While it took me a while to fully get into this novel, I ended up falling in love with it. Both points of view were interesting and drew me in. I found myself guessing throughout the story who the bones would be and I kept changing my mind. Sarah Maine has created a dark and brooding mystery and a wonderful story of ancestral history and how grief affects us. I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 5.0/5.0

Book Review: The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The prequel to Ken Follett’s award winning Knightsbridge Trilogy The Evening and the Morning begins at the end of the 10th century in England, with excursions to the Norman coast. While written thirty years after the first novel in the trilogy, Pillars of the Earth, and set almost 150 years prior, The Evening and the Morning still provides the same engrossing storytelling and historical setting that will please original fans of the Knightsbridge Trilogy and newcomers alike. 

Ken Follett’s The Evening and the Morning is filled with a compelling story-line (especially for fans of evil plots, religious turmoil, and, of course, murder), complex characters that you’ll both love and hate, relationships that will draw on your heartstrings, and action and adventure. Even though it’s quite large, I couldn’t put it down so it was a relatively quick read. I won’t give everything away but I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves to read and wants to fully be immersed in another place and time. 

Rating 5.0/5.0

The Mystery of the Princes in the Tower

Edward IV became the King of England on March 4th, 1461 and was a member of the House of York. In 1464, he married Elizabeth Widville in a secret ceremony. Six years later, in November of 1470, Edward V was born as heir to the English throne. At the time that Edward was born, his father, was actually in exile in the “Low Countries” as Henry VI, a member of the house of Lancaster, had briefly been proclaimed King of England. However, Edward IV returned home in 1471 and reclaimed the English crown and named his son Edward Prince of Wales.

Because his father was in exile, Edward V was actually born in Westminster Abbey as his mother had sought sanctuary there. Three years later in August of 1473, his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury was born, and surprisingly his father did not have him named a prince but as a Duke of York. 

The two brothers were not raised together, as Edward V was given his own household as a prince at Ludlow Castle in what is now Shropshire, England. Richard of Shrewbury was raised separately, possibly with his five sisters. 

Edward V was only twelve when news reached him of his fathers death on the 14th of April, 1483. It is not known what King Edward IV died of but theories include pneumonia, malaria, apoplexy or even poisoning. After his fathers death, Edward V was assumed as King of England. Located at Ludlow Castle, Edward V did not immediately set out to London as his mother, Elizabeth Widville, was there to take power for him and to begin the planning for his coronation. It wasn’t until April 14th that Edward V, along with his uncle, the Early Rivers set off for London. 

It is important to note that Elizabeth Widville did not notify her husband brother, Richard of Gloucester, of the king’s death. Instead, he found out about it from another party. Once he had heard of it, however, Richard of Gloucester set out to meet Edward V and ride in with him to London in order to support his transition over to king. So on Wednesday April 30th, Richard of Gloucester met Edward V at Stony Stratford, just north of London, and took guardianship of him.

When the entourage arrived in London, Edward V was established as the new King of England and his uncle, Richard of Gloucester was made the lord protector of the kingdom, as Edward was still so young. This was a disappointment to his mother who had been attempting to set herself up as the Regent for her young son, a tradition that was common in France, but not England at the time. And so, Elizabeth Widville sought sanctuary again in Westminster Abbey with her daughters and her son, Richard of Shrewbury.

When he arrived in London, the young king took up residence at the Tower of London, which was not only a prison but a royal castle. However, Richard of Gloucester did not stay with him at the Tower but at his mother’s residence elsewhere in London. In order to provide some company to the young king, Richard of Gloucester sent a delegation to Westminster Abbey to convince Elizabeth Widville to send the king’s brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, out of sanctuary to join his brother at the Tower. Eventually she complied and Richard of Shrewsbury joined Edward V at the Tower.

Originally, Edward’s coronation was set for May 4th, but Richard of Gloucester rearranged for it to be on June 24th so that the new king could open parliament on the following day. During one of the planning meetings at a royal council meeting held on June 9th, Bishop Stillington of Bath and Wells decided to address the royal council and claimed that Edward V could not be crowned as the King of England. Year earlier, before his marriage to Elizabeth Widville, King Edward IV has also been secretly married to a woman named Eleanor Talbot, a marriage that was supposedly performed by Bishop Stillington himself. Eleanor Talbot had also still been alive during Edward IV’s second marriage, thus making his marriage to Elizabeth illegitimate and all of his children bastards. This meant that Edward V had no rightful claim to the throne. 

An unofficial parliament held that week declared that all of Edward IV’s and Elizabeth Widville’s children were illegitimate. After this was established, five days later Edward V’s uncle and protector of the realm, Richard of Gloucester was persuaded to become King of England.

On June 22nd, in order to make Richard III’s coronation more acceptable sermons were given out at Paul’s Cross and throughout London which raised publicly the issue of the bastardy of Edward V and his siblings. They also put forward what the Bible said should be done in respect of bastardy. On June 26th he was crowned King Richard III.

After Richard III’s coronation, supposedly a secret meeting was held between the Dukes of Hastings, Rotherham and Morton in which they discussed their disapproval of the removal of Edward V. Later at a parliament meeting, Lord Hasting’s supposedly attempted to attack Richard III (more likely he told him of his disapproval with hostility) and then: “The protector (Richard) cried out that a plot had been prepared against him, and they had come with concealed weapons, so that they could make the first attack. Then soldiers who had been stationed there by the lord, and the Duke of Buckingham, came running, and beheaded Hastings by sword under the name of treason.” The other two conspirators were imprisoned in Welsh castles. 

A few weeks later, a supposed coup was being formed by the Duke of Buckingham. According to an early sixteenth century account called the Divisikroniek, “the Duke of Buckingham killed these children hoping to become king himself and this for the reason that he had read a prophecy about a future King Henry of England who would be very great and powerful, and he believed himself to be this for he was called Henry. And some say also that this Henry Early of Buckingham killed only one child and spared the other which he then lifted from the front and had him secretly abducted out of the country.” However, this was never proven. 

Richard III, heard of the coup being planned and had the Duke of Buckingham captured and executed. 

The fate of the two brothers, Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury remains unknown, but it does appear that at least Edward V did die in the late summer of 1483, because after that date there is no documentation that he was ever seen again but there is also no documentation that he was ever put to death. Several documents do seem to point toward his death as he is referred to as the “late king” and as the “late son of Edward IV.” It is very possible that he died of illness as his doctor had been visiting the Tower to see him frequently. However, Richard of Shrewsbury seemed as healthy as a horse and was documented several times at being a gleeful boy.

There were also supposed plots and attempts to kidnap the boys from the Tower. Specifically, supposedly four men tried to abduct the two brothers from the tower by igniting diversionary fires around the Tower. However, they were captured and were tried at Westminster, condemned to death, drawn to Tower Hill and beheaded, and their heads were exhibited on London Bridge. No one knows why they were trying to get the boys, if they were, possibly for political reasons. 

In 1485, King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, afterwhich Henry VII of the House of Lancaster, eventually the House of Tudor, usurped the throne, which completely changed the political situation in England.

As soon as he had been crowned King of England, Henry VII imprisoned Bishop Stillington who had announced to the royal council that Edward IV had secretly married Eleanor so his marriage to Elizabeth was illegitimate. This was because Henry’s claim to the throne was weak and in order to strengthen it he wanted to erase the ruling that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate and marry Edward IV’s oldest daughter who would then again be the heiress of the House of York. This was accomplished when his first act of parliament was to destroy the act of parliament that declared them illegitimate. 

However, this also meant that if either Edward V or Richard of Shrewbury was still alive they had an even better claim to the throne, meaning that Henry VII had an even better motive for killing the boys than anyone else. But, there is do evidence that they were alive then, or that he had them killed. In order to further the possibility that the boys were dead, from 1502 onward the official version of their life story stated clearly that both Edward V and Richard of Shrewbury were deceased, having been murdered nineteen years earlier, in 1483.

The Great Chronicle of London, which seems to have been completed in about 1512 cites three different rumours to the effect that the two boys may have been smothered in their feather beds, or possibly they were drowned in malmsey wine, or maybe they were poisoned.

The version of the story that has been the most upheld, but is likely the least factual, was written by Thomas More who was actually only five years old when the events actually occurred. He claims that: “Sir James Tyrell devised that they should be murdered in their beds, to the execution whereof he appointed Miles Forest, one of the four that kept them, a fellow fleshed in murder before time….about midnight came into the chamber and suddenly lapped them up among the clothes – so bewrapped them and entangled them, kepping down by force the featherbed and pillows hard unto their mouths, that within a while, smores and stifled, their breath failing, they have up to God their innocent souls into the joys of heaven, leaving to the tormentors their bodies dead in the bed.”

Nearly two hundred years after the boys disappearance, the bones of two children were found underneath a set of stairs in the Tower of London. Believing that they were bones of the two lost princes they were place in an urn and interred in Westminster Abbey. However, no one knows for sure if those are the boys bones or even if they were murdered.


Ashdown-Hill, John. The Mythology of the ‘Princes in the Tower’. United Kingdom: Amberley Publishing, 2018.
Thornton, Tim. “More on a Murder: The Deaths of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, and Historiographical Implications for the Regimes of Henry VII and Henry VIII.” History 106, no. 369 (2021): 4-25.

Book Review: A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison

A Shameful Murder was written by Cora Harrison and published by Seven House Publishers in 2015. The first in the Reverend Mother Mystery series, A Shameful Murder takes place in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s. The novel opens with the Reverend Mother finding the body of young girl who has washed into the street by the convent due to the flooding in Cork. The Reverend Mother takes a special interest in the girl, deducing, with the help of Police Sergeant Patrick Cashman and Dr. Sher, that the young girl has been murdered. The three of them begin to investigate the murder of the girl and look into her family, the upperclass of Cork, and even the local asylum. Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle and Tana French will love this 1920s murder mystery. 

While originally picking up this book because I did not realize it was set in the 1920s and thought it was set during the medieval period, I enjoyed it from beginning to end! I’m excited to read further in the series and find out what other mysteries the three eccentric characters will investigate! This novel is exceptionally well written and will leave you thinking that you really are experiencing Cork. Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle and Tana French will love this 1920s murder mystery. 

Rating: 5.0/5.0

Book Review: The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell 

The Dark Lantern was written by Gerri Brightwell and published by Crown Publishing in 2009. The Dark Lantern was Brightwell’s first novel and she has now written several short stories and one other novel. I found this book at an antique store and it’s premise immediately drew me in. While usually novels featuring murder and mayhem are my cup of tea, sometimes a good old Victorian mystery is good for the soul. 

Set in Victorian London, The Dark Lantern follows the life of a young maid, Jane, who has taken up a new position in an upper class house. While the house is considered part of the aristocracy, there are strange happenings throughout; whether it be a maid who takes advantage of everyone’s secrets, a mysterious newly widowed stranger, a man who works in prisons trying to identify criminals through anthropometry and his wife who seems to have more secrets than the rest. Fans of Downtown Abbey, The American Heiress, and Stalking Jack the Ripper will enjoy this engaging read. 

Overall I enjoyed the book; the first chapter pulled me in and I was interested to see where Jane’s story would go. I liked the different perspectives throughout the story and Brightwell provided a good level of intrigue into each of the characters secrets and background. However, I felt that after the first 3/4s of the novel, the story begin to feel rushed and a lot of the elements that were most interesting to me were never examined in depth. For example, I would have loved to have known the back story of Jane’s mother, instead of just snippets of her fear that she would be discovered. I did enjoy the story but I would not read it again.

Rating 2.5/5

Book Review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Maidens was released in June 2021 as Alex Michaelides second novel after his New York Times bestselling novel The Silent Patient. I initially picked this book up in airport and the description pulled me in. It seemed to have everything I was looking for: dark academia, murder, intrigue, the lot. 

The Maidens begins with an introduction to the main character, Mariana Andros, and her role as a group therapist. While I did like this as a concept, in practice it didn’t seem to play out as well as I had hoped. Throughout the book, the author refers back to her role as a group therapist but it never fully seemed necessary or relevant for such a large emphasis. The novel looks at the murder of several girls at Cambridge University and how Mariana tries to solve the murders. The girls are friends of Mariana’s niece and the most likely suspect is their classics professor, Edward Fosca.

The plot was interesting and it was quite easy to engage with the story. However, there were several plot holes, and there wasn’t as much of an emphasis on classics and the academia part of “dark academia.” The ending was not what I was expecting as it seemed like the author was leading the story in another direction until the last couple of chapters. 

Rating: 3/5

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