Saturday, October 11, 2008

Review: Havoc in its Third Year

Havoc in Its Third Year by Ronan Bennett is a mystery and a morality play and a historical novel all rolled into one.

In 1630, John Brigge is the coroner and one of the Governors in an unnamed Northern England town. When he is called into town from his family and farm on the other side of the desolate moor, he finds not only a woman accused of murdering her newborn son, but political upheaval as law-and-order extremists use fiery oratory and public torture to consolidate their power.

There are times when the implicit comparison to modern times is a little heavy handed, but, in general, the author avoids preaching by focusing on human ambiguity rather than human hypocrisy. Whether the final ending is hard-heartedly cynical or comfortingly realistic is up for debate.

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