Cover Image: The Almanack

The Almanack

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I think the first thing to really say about this book concerns the writing style - every chapter starts with information that includes an almanac prediction of what will happen that day. There is also a riddle. Both these things set the tone for the whole book for me.... it's very atmospheric, gothic almost, where nothing is at it seems. It's set in England in the village of Netherlea in the mid 18th century and the historical setting is created well - times are hard, life is hard... so, what's it about??

We start with Tabitha Hart who has fallen victim to a robbery after her intention to take advantage of the man she spent the night with goes wrong. She's travelling back to Netherlea at the request of her mother but when she arrives her mother is dead, apparently drowned. Tabitha is immediately suspicious but the men of Netherlea are very hostile towards her and want her out of the village. Having no money and her own small child to care for, Tabitha is given permission to stay for a short while to earn her keep. What unfolds is a murder mystery - who is the mysterious D and will he kill again?

I enjoyed this book - but it falls into the 'liked' rather than 'loved' category. This author has clearly done a lot of research. I felt immersed in the world she created. But the story takes a lot of twists and turns - time in Netherlea and London and two stands develop - the mystery and a love story. I'm not sure whether the love story part diluted the impact of the mystery. I didn't really connect the with the story between Tabitha and her beau, I just didn't feel it.... I don't know whether this might have been because any sense of love and warmth didn't really fit with the otherwise dark and cold atmosphere that seemed to dominate throughout the rest of the book. 

This is a good, interesting read. I think the information about almanacs might have been better at the start as opposed to the end. 

I got an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I received this from for a review.

1752, Midsummer. Tabitha Hart departs London for her home village of Netherlea – only to discover that her mother has drowned.

Oh I don't know ... this book has its highs and lows. I liked that Tabitha was not a very likeable person, it kept things a bit off balance. But overall, the story was just so-so.

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A good interesting read. I loved the writing style and the fact that the descriptions meant that you could imagine exactly where the characters were. There are strong characters and although it is a bit slow in places it is still a good read.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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Really enjoyed this historical murder mystery set in the 18th century. It rattles along nicely, keeps you guessing and has riddles and puzzles galore along the way. The idea of basing a book around an old style almanack is a nice hook, and I loved Tabitha the feisty protagonist.
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I enjoyed this book a lot. The inclusion of riddles was both relevant to the story and loads of fun, since the solution to each riddle hinted at what that chapter would reveal (and some were fairly challenging!). I also think the almanac entries for the date each chapter falls on was very clever. The style of writing is thoughtful and intelligent.
Bailey’s descriptions of people and places are detailed, but not obnoxiously so. She gives just enough to allow one to visualize clearly her characters and settings.

The mystery was well crafted, and the characters were fleshed out. I found that I really liked Tabitha and Nat, and that I wanted things to turn out well for both of them.

But the best part? I didn’t peg the villain until they did. That almost never happens – I’m usually mentally berating the characters for their thick-headedness, but not so here. Many people seem like they could be behind the crimes, and indeed, many are less than innocent – they are simply innocent of the crimes upon which this story hinges.

I like a mystery that doesn’t assume I’m thick-headed, and this one delivers. There is a lot to occupy the mind within these pages, so you certainly won’t find yourself growing bored.

The Almanack is full of intrigue and cleverness, but most importantly, it has heart. It is loads of fun to try to root out the villain in real time.

If you like historical fiction, mysteries, and/or historical mysteries, this is a good one. I liked it enough that I may even read it again, and in a world with so many books I haven’t read yet, that feels like mighty high praise.
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What a great read!
I adore historical fiction and this one did not disappoint.
Mystery, crime, this book has it all.
Really loved it.
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What an enjoyable read.

The research required to bring this book to life had to be extensive.  It is always a joy for me to open a book and step into another place and time.  This book delivered.  The shorter chapters and riddles at the beginning of each chapter only add to the delight of reading and give clues to the mystery.

Being overly critical, there was a section of the book where Tabitha and Nat are ruminating on the future that seemed odd to me and didn't really add to the story.  

There were several interesting twists to the book and they were all fun to discover. It delivers on being an entertaining, puzzle filled book but will probably fail to be very memorable after you read the final page.


I would have liked something besides the typical Disney-like fairy tale ending of good prevailing over evil and the heroine living happily ever after but that could be just my taste and longing for something different.
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The Almanack fits into my good-but-not-great category. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes. Will I want to reread it? No. Will I recommend it to friends? That depends on their tastes—but if they enjoy historical mysteries, I probably will. It provides a fun bit of reading.

The Almanack has two lines of narrative: a serial killer is haunting a small village; a woman whose mother was one of the killer's victims and a handsome, enigmatic newcomer to town fall in love with one another. I found the mystery more engaging than the romance. One particularly fun aspect of the book was that each chapter opens opens with a riddle that echoes in some way the events that chapter narrates.

I received a free electronic ARC of this book via NetGalley for review purposes. The opinions are my own.
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It’s an utterly fascinating historical crime novel about a rural community terrorised by a strange serial killer hiding his identity known only as ‘M’. Reading this book, you will travel through space and time, relocating to a Georgian England that is so alive and vivid, you can smell the air and feel the seasons turning. This book was not what I expected at all. Very strange, yet very interesting.
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I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

I like a mystery, and the description made this book sound dark and intriguing. However, I struggled to get into it, although I did find it more interesting during the second half. It was just a bit too slow and lacking in tension. There were some clues and twists along the way, but I found the reveal of the murderer to be a little underwhelming.

Each chapter begins with observations from the almanack along with a riddle, which I thought was a nice touch and added a bit of character.

I didn’t like the prominent romance in The Almanack. A few times I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes at Nat in particular. The ending was also a bit too happily ever after for me.

This wasn’t a bad book by any means. The writing was descriptive, and I liked the setting. But I wasn’t engaged or immersed – it just didn’t hook me. Not awful, but not amazing.
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I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback.

The Almanack is set in England during the 1750s. London is full of fun and frolics, but Tabitha Hart is summoned home by a cryptic message from her mother. Arriving in the sleepy village of Netherlea, Tabitha finds her mother has died and is determined to find out just how and why.

Bailey skillfully weaves romance, impeccable historical details and a who-done-it plot to create The Almanack. Settings are beautifully described and you get a real sense of being there with the characters. The characters themselves are well developed and the plot twists and turns to keep you guessing right to the end.

Bailey explores themes of time - the novel takes place in the year the Gregorian calender is introduced in England. Days are lost but knowledge is gained, by reading Tabitha's mothers Almanack. Riddles exaccebate the sense of mystery - character and reader alike are kept guessing throughout.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's a very easy read and a little cheesy at times - perfect for a holiday book choice.
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Tabitha Hart has been urgently called back to her home town of Netherlea by her mother, however she arrives to find her mother has died in dubious circumstances.  Tabitha is determined to find put what happened, especially after finding cryptic notes in her mother's almanack.  The villagers are reluctant to help her, believing her to be a woman of questionable morals, but she finds a friend in newcomer Nat Starling, and together they work to unravel the mystery.

I'm going to start this review by saying that I think this book is wrongly categorised on NetGalley.  It is definitely more of a romance than a thriller/mystery, and not really my thing.  I've had some pleasant surprises from unexpected NetGalley picks before so I persevered, but this book wasn't to fall in that category.

Plot wise I found it to be slow moving.  There wasn't a lot going on for much of the story, aside from Tabitha having to fend off her many admirers.  There seemed to be a lot of extra sidelines thrown in to muddy the waters and keep the 'mystery' alive, and a couple twists, but I found these all just seemed too much like gimicks.  They were easy to see through and didn't really add anything to the story for me.  The ending was all very neat and tidy and tied with a bow on top, which would normally annoy me, but to be honest I was just glad it was over.  

I didn't like any of the characters, the riddles at the start of each chapter were annoying and the plot didn't offer any saving graces.  If I'm brutally honest I probably should have given up and let this be a DNF.
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Thank you Netgally & Black Thorn Books for the advance copy of this book. 

"The Almanack" is set in the year 1752 when the Gregorian calendar is being embraced by England. For the residents of Netherlea this change in the calendar and murder are causing tensions in the small village. In the middle of it all is Tabitha Hart. After being stripped of her belongings by a villain she must walk to the village of Netherlea after receiving a letter from her mother requesting Tabitha to come home. But she arrives to her mother dead. 
Like her mother she has assumed the role as village searcher reluctantly. But soon she realizes her mother was murdered and other deaths follow... 

Filled with riddles of the Enigmatography era. The riddles give insight to every chapter in the story. Beautifully written, multi-layered and absolutely captivated me as a reader. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will recommend it to others.
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Lovers of historical fiction thrillers w.ill thoroughly enjoy The Almanack. The riddles that are woven into the plot, and at the start of each chapter, work to keep you guessing and keep the plot moving at a steady pace. 

Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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This was right up my street - paganism, female main character, puzzles - so I was surprised to find it a little slow going. I loved all the almanack references, and the feel of village life in that era but I felt the book dragged a bit in the middle. The mystery bit wasn't as well developed as it could have been. Good but not quite there.
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The Almanack, by Martine Bailey is a mystery, amateur sleuth delight that is an all around good read.

The Almanack, by Martine Bailey follows the main character, Tabitha Hart, and the secondary main character, Nat Starling. Tabitha, having left her small village to have a scandalous life in London, is called back home to Netherlea by her mother via a letter in which she appears to be worried about something. Concerned, Tabitha rushes back home, with some misfortune on the way, only to arrive too late as her mother had died before her arrival. 

After finding out about her mother, Tabitha soon realises that there was more to her death than meets the eye as she finds a threatening note from, and references in her mothers almanac to, a mysterious person named 'D'.  After this convinces Tabitha that there are more sinister motives at play she begins to try and unravel the truth, but as more murders occur and the threat grows closer to her, it seems this will not be as easy as she first thought. 

After, Tabitha begins her search for 'D' she meets Nat, a man who knows her by her London reputation, who is hiding some secrets of his own. As Nat attempts to uncover his own truths, he also ends up tangled in the sinister happenings of Netherlea. Initially suspicious of Nat, but unable to deny their connection, the two end up working together in order to find and stop 'D' before the year ends in a bloody and violent way. 

The question occurs. Who is 'D' and can they stop them before it is too late?

The Almanack was a very interesting book, starting with the structure. Each chapter starts off with a riddle (which you are free to try and work out, and the answers were at the end too!) and the Almanac predictions and the astrology of that day (i.e the prominence or movement of the planets.) If, like me, you love riddles then you will love this book and its structure. Not only are there riddles at the start off each chapter but the mysterious 'D' also uses riddles to tease the main characters, and predict the terrible events through the Almanac. I thoroughly enjoyed this little element of inclusion for the reader and felt it added to the story.

Furthermore, the narrative choice worked very well for this novel. Reading from both Tabitha and Nat's perspective creates more intrigue and suspense throughout the novel. This is because it allows us to get a look into their minds and so we could see when there was more to something that had happened- this also made me suspicious of Nat a few times while I was reading this! I was constantly conflicted between him being entirely innocent but also had the feeling he could be part of the sinister happenings as he had a lot of secrets himself. Furthermore, seeing things from Tabitha's perspective means you also begin to realise that there is more to her story as well, and it makes it harder for you to work out who 'D' is because you too are only accessing the information that Tabitha can. The structure and narrative of The Almanack worked incredibly well and kept me guessing all the way through the novel.

The plot of The Almanack was also fun and interesting. While it is a classic plot with an anonymous tormentor known only by an alias teases and tortures the main characters, the astrological elements, and the use of the Almanac, kept the story fresh and original. Moreover, the use of riddles that tied into the astrology and event of the chapter also created a unique dimension to the novel. The plot was filled with twists and turns that kept me guessing and the identity of 'D' completely shocked me, I was so mad that I did not guess this! But that was part of the fun and made the ending more interesting. Every twist in this novel was intricately created and made sense by the end and the novel ended in a nice, tied up way that, for this type of novel, made sense and was incredibly satisfying and sweet.

The characters that Martine Bailey created were well crafted and well developed. Now, full disclosure, I really did not like Tabitha much at the start of the novel as she came across as a trouble maker without the redeeming or slight adorable qualities. But, this did not make me dislike the novel, in fact I was kind of intrigue to see if she really was this troublesome character. As the novel went on I grew warmer to her and began to admire her headstrong and independent qualities. Tabitha is, by the end, a clever character who is wholly independent and determined, though still flawed thus, she was a character you could connect with more and more as the novel went on. Moreover, she appears to be much kinder and selfless than she originally appears while still maintaining her independence and fierce behaviour. 

Nat. Now Nat is a character who messed with my emotions because I hated him, loved him, suspected him, and then wanted to defend him. I was so conflicted! So, Nat is an aspiring writer/poet. Now, I did not really enjoy the 'insta-love' connection between him and Tabitha but I did like watching their relationship develop. Despite the 'insta-love' they do not actually give into it immediately- which I really liked. Instead their relationship develops naturally before the romance becomes more prominent, this was fun to read about and was interesting as there were many twists and turns throughout their relationship. Nat was an interesting character who was also quite determined but also kind. He too is flawed, so is easier to connect with, and make stupid mistakes throughout the novel that keeps you guessing about this character but also makes you more intrigued about him and how he deals with these mistakes. Nat is contrasted with many other characters in the book, and it makes him more interesting and clearly different from most other characters.

The other characters such as the De Vallory's, Zusanna, Bess, Jennet, Joshua, the Doctor, Dilks, and Darius (etc...) were also well developed and fun to read about, with each being incredibly individual and different from each other. 

The attitudes and themes explored throughout The Almanack were cleverly weaved throughout the story from social expectations, to gender, to human nature and ambition. 

The Almanack, by Martine Bailey is the perfect murder mystery for people who love a historical setting, and the complex fun of working out who is behind the crimes. If you dislike gruesome and bloody murder mysteries then this is for you, though there are murders the book itself is not overly gruesome or graphic and focuses more on the mystery and the riddles. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and throughout it was an all around good read with the fun of a mystery! 

 *I received an eARC of The Almanack by Martine Bailey from #Netgalley and Black Thorn (publisher) @blackthornbks in exchange for an honest review*

posted on Goodreads (linked) and my Blog (linked) with links via my twitter @BookreviewsKb
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It is 1752 and Britain is on the verge of moving from the Gregorian to the Julian calendar. After an urgent message from her mother, Tabitha returns to the village of her birth where tragedy awaits. There she meets Nat, an aspiring writer, and they find themselves at the mercy of and in the hunt for a mysterious killer..

The language and setting seem authentic to these uneducated eyes and the plot develops at a steady pace. The identity of the killer is witheld until late on but is rather heavily signalled from much earlier. Nevertheless, the climax is satisfying although somewhat predictable.

Each chapter begins with a riddle, some easier than others to interpret, which gives title to the events of that chapter. This is followed by an extract from an almanac relating to the date of the events in that chapter. These are interesting additions to the enjoyment of the story although I must confess that the significance of the almanac to the killer and his actions was difficult to ascertain.

An enjoyable read and an author to look out for in the future.
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Saved: Wed 10/2/2019 10:58 PM
​     The Almanack by Martine Bailey to be published November 27, 2019

     Ms Bailey has given her readers a veritable cornucopia of ideas and well researched facts set in the England of the mid 1750's.  The author has painted a picture of another era with all the problems, ideas,   dirt and filth present in that day and age.  Tabitha Hart has left her home in the town of Netherlea to seek her fortune in London.  There she made a passable living as a lady of the street until her mother sends her a message to return home because she is dying.  When Tabitha reaches her mother's house she finds that the lady has already passed away and under mysterious circumstances.  She finds and opens her mother's almanack which at that point in time is a book that many people rich and poor buy each year to help them with their year round planning.
     As an aide to finding out what happened the author has prefaced every chapter with a riddle taken from almanacks of the time as well as a daily message advising what is expected to happen each of the days.  This practice opens up additional customs of the era under discussion as well as providing an idea of how people thought and behaved.
     The novel is indeed a vibrant picture of another time and makes it possible for today's reader to allow themselves to slip into that era and enjoy an interesting read.
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In the year 1752, at a London inn, a gentleman sent a bottle of claret to the table of 19 year old Tabitha Hart. "You are seeking business tonight, lady?" "Tabitha remembered her own sorry plans to strip the fellow of his purse and abandon him at first light. If only she had woken first... The villain has taken every farthing I own and my box and clothes besides..." She is forced to forego a carriage and must walk home to Netherlea.

"Netherlea was a village of countrified clods, gossips and whisperers...In London she had kept her past tucked, with a sense of dread...she took the soiled memories out once more." Entirely penniless, dressed in her underclothes, she arrived at her squat, wattle-and-daub cottage. Her mother, Widow Hart, had written to Tabitha requesting that she make haste and return home. Tabitha is devastated upon discovering that she is too late, her mother has died. Although the cause of death was deemed the drowning of a woman whose "...mind was disordered...went wandering at night...", Tabitha was convinced otherwise. Her mother's head wound suggested foul play. She was bound and determined to seek justice for her mother...but how?

A thorough search of the cottage unearthed Widow Hart's Almanack replete with cryptic notes documenting her daily ruminations. Tabitha found a tiny cross crafted from rowan twigs, "a protection against evil". "The rowan cross confirmed the truth her mother had been terrified...[Tabitha] uncovered a newly inked [writing]".
"A Riddle for Mistress Hart"

I see you as you watch and spy,
Consumed with curiosity;
A maggot feeding on the dead,
And feasting on calamity.
Don't think you'll end my sovereign power-
'Tis you whom worms will soon devour.

Signed "D"

Who is the mysterious "D"? The plot thickens as another Netherlea resident falls victim. The Almanack predicts a "violent, bloody end" to 1752. Will more deaths follow? By trying to unmask "D", was Tabitha's life now in jeopardy?

"The Almanack" by Martine Bailey was a multi-layered who-dun-it which takes place during the year of 1752, at a time when England adopted the Gregorian calendar, a year with eleven less days. The populace was arguably "off-balance" as a consequence of this loss of time. The eighteenth century was the "golden age of enigmatography". Author Bailey effectively used riddles to "give an insight" into the Georgian era, a time when word puzzles were often printed in almanacs and magazines. Many well fleshed- out characters are introduced in this novel...a writer, doctor and rent collector, to name a few. This period piece masterfully evoked the narrow mindedness and small village mentality of 18th Century England. A well researched, captivating read.

Thank you Black Thorn Books and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Almanack".
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An engrossing and entertaining read for fans of historical mysteries. Tabitha returns from London to the small country village of her birth only to be confronted with the death of her mother. There's a clever murderer on the loose and Tabitha is not the only one in danger. A story full of riddles, danger, death and love.
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