Last year, when I was in Newcastle, I bought a book. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me, I actually bought a lot of books on that holiday, we did a morning in Barter Books and a day in Newcastle, where I had a book token to spend! Anyway, for the purposes of this story, the book that I picked up was ‘Guns in the North’ which is the first three of the nine Carey mysteries by P. F. Chisholm. I’m not mad keen on mysteries but the main character in these ones was Robert Carey and they were sent on Borders in 1592. I’m keen on Elizabethan history and I was near the Borders, so there was another book added to my unruly TBR pile (I don’t have a book problem, I just don’t have enough time to read!)
I finally got around to starting this one in November, and I was captivated. For those of you that don’t know, Sir Robert Carey was a courtier and son of Lord Hunson, who may have been Henry VIII’s illegitimate son by Mary Boleyn but the book takes this as fact. Carey is the man, who without the permission of the Privy Council, took the news of Elizabeth I’s death up to Scotland to tell James VI of Scotland that he was now King of England. He’s interesting because in 1592, he abandoned being a courtier and went to Carlisle to be the Deputy Warden of the West March, under his brother in law. But enough of the actual person, let’s talk about the books.
They are so good, Chisholm does that great thing, of putting you right in the time and place, so while I adore her fictionalised Carey and love the totally made up character, Henry Dodd, they are Elizabethans, not modern people in the 1500’s. They frequently discount woman as having brains (despite being ruled by one!), they drink all the time, they aren’t very clean (although Carey has been a courtier and is cleaner than most), they are cavalier about death (and murder and because it’s the Borders), theft and have a flexible attitude to morality in general.
Without being boring or preachy, Chisholm manages to convey a completely different way of viewing the world that’s really easy to understand. One of the ways she does that is with language, so it’s not just that characters speak with accents but that they use words that we wouldn’t and just think differently, Carey is in love with a married woman and it’s not until book eight we discover that he has no idea what colour her hair is as it’s always been under a married woman’s cap and that doesn’t stop him having dalliances either.
They also run on from one another delightfully, in nine books we only cover about seven months, I loved the first three books so much that I immediately bought all the others and bought the first three for Jo as a Christmas present, I’m hopeful that there will be a 10 book because I want to know what happens next.
Seriously, I can’t recommend them enough…