Cover Image: Prophet, The

Prophet, The

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This is a sequel to The Almanack, but should work fairly well as a stand-alone. Tabitha and her new husband, Nat, are getting used to each other and life as landowners on their estate. Tabitha is also pregnant with their first child. Then two events shake their lives: a murdered woman is found at the foot of a great oak tree in their forest, and a group of religious fanatics, led by a charismatic preacher, camp in that same forest on their way to the New World.

I have to admit that I couldn't see why so many women fell under the preacher's spell, nor why Tabitha was so fascinated by him. .This got in the way of my enjoying the story, with its mysteries and supernatural overtones. But you do get a good feeling of country life in the 1750s and the way a cult can take off when its leader has a magnetic personality (and a huge heap of hypocrisy, too).
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The story of Tabitha and Nathaniel de Vallory, which began in The Almanack, continues in this mystery set in the Cheshire countryside. It is May 1753 when Nathaniel, heir to Bold Hall and its vast estate, sets out, along with a pregnant Tabitha, to see the ancient, giant oak tree in their forest. They encounter two things: a dead woman under the oak tree and a mysterious cult led by Baptist Gunn. Superstitious beliefs cast a shadow over the lives of the characters, especially Tabitha’s pregnancy. Nat wants to “call upon the tree spirit [to] ask for a safe childbirth,” and Tabitha puts her unborn baby in jeopardy when she looks upon the dead body. She recognizes the young, pregnant victim from her past, but tells no one. The couple then meets the strange Baptist Gunn and his followers encamped on de Vallory land. This begins Tabitha’s and Nat’s inquiry into the woman’s death and the untangling of the mystery of the suspicious Baptist Gunn, a sinister yet charismatic man preaching disturbing prophecies.

Tabitha and Nathaniel have a true-to-life marriage. They love each other, yet keep secrets from one another. Now and then their love and trust falters; they argue and make up. Woven into the story is the disruption created by Britain’s change to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. This leap forward by eleven days creates arguments and confusion among the villagers. It causes Tabitha’s calculations to prevent conception to fail, and the old timers don’t take well to the change, especially when it comes to events dictated by the moon such as hunting and harvesting.

This is a standout mystery with impressive research and convincing characters. Although it is not necessary to read The Almanack first, getting to know the characters through both novels provides a richer reading experience.
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It is the old May Day in 1753. England has just lost eleven days with the change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar. A young woman's body is found by an ancient oak tree. At Bold Hall, near Chester, Tabitha and Nat find themselves in the strange world of prophecies, and the prediction that a new Saviour will be born on Midsummer's Day. 
Martine Bailey's novel combines the historical with the fantastic and has a fire cast of well drawn characters. The story slowly builds to a denouement at an ancient Druid barrow. An engrossing and original novel
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When a dead body is found at the foot of an ancient oak, a tense plot begins. ‘The Prophet’ is the second Martine Bailey novel to feature the characters of Tabitha and Nat De Vallory, first seen in ‘The Almanack’. The oak tree in question is not just any tree; it is the Mondren Oak, and nearby an evangelist preacher and his community have made an encampment in ancient woodland belonging to Nat’s father.
Eighteenth-century England was a place of superstition and myth, of religious fervour and persecution. It was also a time of scientific study and enlightenment. The body of a young woman is found on May Day, 1753. The date is significant and the novel’s action winds up slowly in pace and tension towards Midsummer’s Day, coincidentally the due date for the arrival of Tabitha and Nat’s first baby. Baptist Gunn and his growing number of followers believe a new saviour will be born close to the oak tree on Midsummer’s Day. Gunn, a ‘sleeping prophet’, is gathering his congregation, and money, in preparation to sail for a new life in America.
Tabitha is a likeable protagonist, happy to be married and living in the place where she grew up, but challenged by the new monied life she leads. Her colourful background comes in handy when she determines to seek the woman’s murderer. Heavily pregnant, she makes an eye-catching amateur detective. Advised by her doctor to avoid shock, surprise, and the night-time attentions of her husband, Tabitha feels distanced from Nat. She distrusts the claims of Baptist Gunn and fears he is a fraudster. Meanwhile Nat seeks the preacher’s company, keen to run a scientific experiment studying the veracity of prophecies. Eager to support his ailing father and needing to establish his authority in the community as heir to the estate, Nat takes risks that Tabitha fears endanger their lives. 
Are our lives governed by fate and can this be forseen by a privileged few? Why do some people trustingly accept claims and predictions without examination, while others demand proof and evidence? Bailey’s novel is a historical reminder to the 21st century not to believe everything you hear without an analysis of motivation, fact and context.
‘The Prophet’ is an unusual historical mystery rooted in an ancient Cheshire woodland. Bailey has created an authentic rural community which lightly bears the depth of her historical research. Watch out for the plot surprises, the secrets and lies.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/
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Another excellent historical mystery by this author.
It's a complex mystery, it is a bit dark at times but always entertaining.
I was happy to catch up with the characters and was fascinated by the well researched and vivid historical background.
I learned something new and was entertained. 
A gripping and enjoyable story that I strongly recommend.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Prophecy and portents!

Following on from The Almanac, Tabitha Hart and Nat are married and living with Nat’s natural father Sir John De Vallory of Bold Hall. Nat is his heir. Tabitha is pregnant.
Riding out on Old May Day (1753) to view a huge tree known as the Mondrem Oak they come across a dead woman under the gigantic trees branches. Living nearby is a strange religious group, a cult, led by a charismatic preacher, Baptist Gunn, who combines a message of free love with scripture. Nat is much taken with his intellect, Tabitha is both puzzled and wary. After eating and drinking with the group she has what seems like hallucinations. I am repelled by Gunn. He’s an alarming mix of a charlatan and a religious fanatic, who seems to know more about Tabitha than she (and I) would like. He and his followers, mainly women,  are squatting here until they make their way to the Americas.
This strange encounter, the actions of Gunn and his relentless, almost hypnotic charisma he tries to exert over Tabitha in particular, his mesmerised followers, all bring a pressure to the situation that never falters, even as events unfold. There’s a mystical, abhorrent cunningness in the air. Tabitha is concerned but can’t qualify the source.
As the local authority Nat must call for the coroner and an inquiry into the woman’s death. 
A troubled time, what with Tabitha trying to find out the dead woman’s identity, Nat being further beguiled by Gunn, Tabitha preparing for her lie in, and the hiring of a wet nurse which Tabitha isn’t comfortable with. Fortunately the woman eventually recommended appears down to earth and experienced in these matters. Meanwhile Tabitha’s puzzled by who or what is Trinity. A name she overheard being whispered on that day at the Tree. Unrest and dangerous forces are gathering. Tabitha will need all her strength and fierceness to stand.
A solid read!

A Severn House ARC via NetGalley 
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)
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It's 1753 and newlyweds and newly expecting Tabitha and Nat are learning about each other and life on their estate in Cheshire after his father Sir John acknowledged him.   They find there's something evil afoot in the first, where they find the mutilated body of a woman and where Baptist Gunn has set up a squatters camp.  There's folklore surrounding May Day and the tree where the woman was found.  There's also a real sense of menace when Tabitha starts to investigate.  She's not really welcome in the community (or even in her own home) but she's persistent.  This is a  complex mystery with terrific atmospherics. I loved the first book (The Almanack) but this would be just fine as a standalone.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A great read for fans of historical mysteries.
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Author Martine Bailey has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. She has the ability to create a distant past that alternately sparkles and threatens.  THE PROPHET is the second in a series with the same protagonist. In the first book, ALMANACK, she returns to her home village and takes up her mother’s work, memorializing the village deaths. In this book, she is married with a young son and finds a dead body where she least expects it.  The ensuing mystery is detailed and lively, introducing readers to the darker side of the time period’s religious believers.  This is a good mystery filled with portents and prophesies.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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When I finished reading Martine Bailey’s The Almanack last year I didn’t know there was going to be a sequel and didn’t expect one, so it was a nice surprise to come across The Prophet and to reacquaint myself with characters I hadn’t thought I would meet again. This book does work as a standalone, though, so if you haven’t read The Almanack yet, don’t worry!

The story begins in 1753, on Old May Day – eleven days were ‘lost’ the year before when Britain changed over from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar – and Tabitha De Vallory and her husband Nat have decided to ride into the forest to see the giant Mondrem Oak which has been decorated for the occasion. Tabitha also has a special reason of her own for wanting to visit the oak; she is pregnant and wants to ask the tree spirit for a safe childbirth. However, she and Nat are unprepared for what they actually find beneath the tree – the dead body of a young woman, brutally murdered.

The woman’s death has coincided with the arrival of a group of people who are on their way to America to start a new life in Pennsylvania and have set up camp in the forest before continuing their journey to the coast. Led by a charismatic young preacher known as Baptist Gunn, the group deny all knowledge of the murder, but are they telling the truth? Could the dead woman be linked to Gunn’s prophecy predicting the coming of a second messiah on Midsummer’s Day?

I enjoyed being back in Netherlea, the Cheshire village in and around which these books are set. It’s a small community steeped in tradition and folklore, where people’s lives are still ruled by ancient superstitions and rituals, making them suspicious of things that are new and unfamiliar – the perfect setting in which a religious cult like Baptist Gunn’s can take root and develop. The conflict between new and old is also explored through the themes of pregnancy and childbirth as Tabitha looks forward to the arrival of her baby with both excitement and anxiety.

The mystery element of the novel is also interesting; both Tabitha and Nat have a personal connection to the dead woman which makes it even more important for them to find out what happened to her. In addition to the prophet Gunn, there are several other suspects and some of the revelations towards the end of the book surprised me! As well as trying to solve the mystery, Tabitha is trying to put her past behind her and adjust to a new way of life as the lady of Bold Hall, with all the changes in status her marriage has brought her.

Of the two books, I think I preferred The Almanack, mainly because I loved the little riddles at the start of every chapter which aren’t included in this one, but The Prophet was still an enjoyable, if unsettling, read.
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As much as I enjoyed this book, I didn't realize it was part of a series, so it is not suitable for my subscription box.
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This is a creepy, gothic historical tale and I loved it. Apparently it’s the second book in a series but for some reason not billed as such. However, I don’t think I needed it. I get the feeling events picked up straight after the first one but you couldn’t tell and it didn’t spoil any enjoyment. Tabitha is adjusting to life as Lady and an impending birth while dealing with society and it’s whims as well as a preacher and his cult members hanging out on their land.

I loved the characters and the story is so atmospheric and really draws you in and I was fully engaged in the writing from start to finish. I am definitely going to track down the first book. Loved this one.
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Married for just three months, Tabitha De Vallory and her husband, Nathaniel are expecting their first child and are slowly becoming accustomed to their new life as landed gentry living at Bold Hall in Cheshire. On Old May Day in 1753 Tabitha and Nat take an innocent trip into the forest around Bold Hall to view the Modrem Oak, the oldest tree in the forest, and come across the mutilated body of a young woman. This macabre death upsets the equilibrium of the woodland and inadvertently leads Tabitha and Nat into the clutches of Baptist Gunn, an enigmatic preacher who seems to have an uncanny gift for prophecy. Tabitha is sorely troubled by the death of this young woman and her robust investigation to discover the truth opens up many dark secrets.


The Cheshire countryside comes alive with myths and folklore and the unravelling of The Prophet plays into local superstition with hints at dark magic and predictions of the future. Tabitha and Nat are beautifully drawn characters,they have still much to learn, not just about about impending parenthood but also about gaining more of a standing in society, which doesn't always welcome them with enthusiasm. The mystery at the heart of the novel builds steadily which allows the tension to be stretched to breaking point and as we get to know more about the enigmatic preacher, and his plans for the future, so we realise just what danger abounds in the dense woods around Bold Hall.


I have great admiration for any author who can write history with such conviction that you feel as if you travel back in time with them and that is most surely the case with The Prophet. Beautifully written and impeccably researched, The Prophet continues the story of Tabitha and Nathaniel which began in The Almanack and whilst it is perfectly possible to read The Prophet without having read the first book, it does make sense to start at the beginning and follow this intriguing couple as they introduce us to their life at Bold Hall, and give us the pleasure of being involved in their adventurous life together.
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I'm sorry' I just couldn't get to grips with this book - the author's style is one I quite like and it's basically a good plot with a few twists and turns, but, mostly it's quite predictable.. It's a shame; I normally enjoy historical fiction of any kind - and it's obvious there has been a deal of research carried out in the era it's set in.. I don't think the characters are fleshed out enough for me to be interested in them and the self-indulgent, sentimental romantic layer, took away from what promised to be a good historical mystery. But many thanks to Netgalley.for allowing me to try The Prophet. As I only gave the book three stars I won't post on any of my online social media.
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This delightful, intriguing historical thriller is a sequel to the wonderful book The Almanack which I also read and loved. Our protagonist Tabitha is now married and her life is considerably better than her previous days, when she struggled to make ends meet and had a rather risque occupation. As the pregnant wife of nobleman, Nat de Vallory, living in his family home, a huge estate in a forest she is attended by maids and her former friend Jennet. But scandal and deceit are about to surround the young couple when a family pet disappears, a woman is found brutally murdered in the forest and a religious cult with an enigmatic preacher at their helm sets up camp nearby. 
The atmosphere of the mid 18th century is entrancingly illustrated and steeped in folklore and superstition of the era which helped me take a step back into the past. 
Tabitha's new found peace of mind is soon shattered, as lies, deceit and mystery threaten the newlyweds lives. As midsummer approaches, folklore and myth combine with betrayal and deception. What seems at first to be a bucolic tale begins to tighten as suspicion builds sinuously and I began to mistrust everyone. The author is adept at dropping little red herrings all around the forest where they nestle amidst the leaf litter to emerge mystifyingly when I least expected it.
This ravishing read is atmospheric and exciting, the perfect escape from modern day life.
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This was a first for me me from this author. I found it very well written and rich with history and detail. I made it almost a quarter through the novel when I discovered it wasn’t the right read for me. It’s just a personal choice and not based on this author or novel. I do appreciate the level of research this author must have undertook to read this novel. I think this will book will definitely appeal to readers who like a well crafted and solid historical novel.
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Tabitha is back and I wish I were more excited about it. Especially as the first person to rate and review the book. And seriously why not. It’s historical fiction and a mystery, both things I like, separately or together. And yet, much like the first Tabitha adventure, this one is just…tepid excitement wise. A lukewarm tale of intrigue and murder in the 1700s. Then again, strictly objectively, it’s perfectly decent. The writing’s decent, it appears that a decent amount of research has gone into it, the plot is genuinely decently put together and the murder mystery is completely credible. In fact, it was more than credible, it provided a genuinely unexpected twist and a very well masked culprit you don’t suspect throughout the book. 
    And yet, somehow it just didn’t quite sing to me. The Almanac didn’t either, it was good enough and had all those fun riddles, so I figured I’d check out what’s next, but it was more of the same. It seems that the historical drama draws me in, especially here with a cult conveniently setting themselves up right in the De Vallory lands, but the characters leave me indifferent. It’s almost like there are two differently written stories going on at once and when it comes to the characters, it tends to go cheesy and soapy, like one of those historical romances, but the rest is a perfectly respectable production. So Tabitha and her penniless poet turned wealthy landowner beloved are adorable and all, but no, thanks. Not when there are all these interesting things like cults and murder going on. 
     So overall, decent, fairly entertaining, but nothing special. Fans of historical mysteries with a heavy romance lean would probably enjoy this. Thanks Netgalley.
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