Writer & critic
The Searchers walk the streets with their red wands, seeking out sufferers of the plague. Rob Wills brings these forgotten women of history to dramatic life in his vast sweep of a novel, full of character and intrigue. If you like Hilary Mantel, you’ll love this.
Author of The River House and Child of Mine
A noisy place, this teeming city where pestilence rages. Bells toll, dead carts rumble, purging fires smoke and crackle. And everywhere – in churches, inns and parish squares – voices buzzing with gossip, raised up in song.
We meet Widow Hazard and Goodwife Brokefild resting their aching bones on a stone wall, puffing on their pipes, talking things over. Their red wands to hand – these ancient women are plague Searchers, paid by the parish, and this, in the end, is their story.
The product of capacious knowledge, a sharp, affectionate eye and a well-tuned ear, this book is a reel through the stinks and miasmas of plague-stricken London in the company of reflective, funny, fatalistic souls from another time entirely, who are also – mysteriously, deliriously – us. This is a classic.