Company of Liars is a novel set in the 14th Century, written by Karen Maitland and narrated for Audible by David Thorpe. It is 1348 and The Plague has just arrived in England and is spreading northwards from Bristol.
A group of travellers decide to stick together as they attempt to outstrip the contagion by fleeing north from town to town. Their adventures and personal tales form the basis of the novel, in fact it reminded me of Canterbury Tales, with each member of the group telling their “personal tale” but in a less bawdy and non humorous way than in Chaucer’s classic. The group comprises two minstrels, a seller of religious relics, a conjuror with a wagon and horse, a painter/toy maker with his young pregnant wife, a reader of runes and her companion.
Each person appears to have hidden secrets from their earlier life, many based on lies and cruelly exposed by the malicious merchant who just cannot resist taunting people. Slowly but surely however, members of the group start to meet a grisly end, and this is where the book picks up the pace. Is each death a suicide, a murder, committed by an outsider or one of the group? Or maybe it’s a wolf or werewolf that seems to be following them! Whichever one it is, each death is predicted by the reader of runes!
I am a regular reader of books within this genre, medieval fiction, many of which involve murder mysteries or political intrigue. We live in an area of England full of medieval churches, buildings and many ruins, so detailed descriptions of the landscape, villages and monasteries in this book are easily imagined. But this novel didn’t fit either of my preferred narratives, it didn’t seem to have any plot or mystery to captivate me or to entice me to read more by the same author. It just meandered along from town to town, monastery to monastery, forest to forest …….. I think you get the picture.