Book Review – ‘The First Horseman’ by D.K. Wilson


The First Horseman by D.K. Wilson

Also published on my sister blog bookbloggerish.wordpress.com

1536. In the corrupt heart of Tudor London a killer waits in the shadows… The Real Crime: Before dawn on a misty November morning in 1536, prominent mercer Robert Packington was gunned down as he crossed Cheapside on his way to early morning mass. It was the first assassination by handgun in the history of the capital and subsequently shook the city to its core. The identity of his assassin has remained a mystery. Our Story: Thomas Treviot is a young London goldsmith and a close family friend of Robert Packington. Through his own upstanding social connections – and some less upstanding acquaintances he has made along the way – Thomas launches a dramatic investigation into Packington’s death. As Thomas searches for revenge, he must travel from the golden heart of merchant London, to the straw-covered backstreets of London’s poorest districts before reaching the country’s seat of power: the court of King Henry VIII. Before long he is drawn into a dark conspiracy beyond his wildest imaginings and claiming justice for his friend starts to look impossible. Especially when Thomas realises that Robert wasn’t the man he thought he knew… [Description from Waterstones]

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, but I was quite pleasantly surprised. Since I’ve read it, I have seen some reviews comparing it to the Matthew Shardlake books by C.J. Sansom. However, I think that Sansom is a better writer, and better at shaping his characters, so as long as you don’t go in expecting too much you won’t be disappointed.

I like the fact that the story was based on a real-life unsolved crime – the murder of Robert Packington in London in 1536. At this time London was split by divisions over religion and politics. This book deals with the religious divisions quite well, and explores what can be hidden in a man’s soul even when outwardly he is something else. I also loved the meld of real life characters like Thomas Cromwell and Robert Packington with the fictional like Thomas Treviot. It gives a sense that you can relate to the people you know even if the story is alien.

I struggled to understand the significance of the title when I finished the book, as it isn’t obvious how it applies to the story. The first horseman of the apocalypse is said to represent pestilence. Many Catholics in England saw Protestantism as pestilence, corrupting people’s souls and taking England from the ‘true’ Catholic religion into heresy.

I think that Thomas Treviot is an interesting character, but he didn’t quite come across fully formed in this novel. I know there are currently two other books in the series which I am also looking forward to reading, and hope that Thomas Treviot begins to come across as a 3D character rather than just a vessel to tell the story. I think even Robert Packington had more character in this book and he spent most of the story dead! A lot of the characters seem shadowy rather than fully-formed which was a little disappointing.

Nevertheless I think that that idea for the story was interesting, but it could have done with a bit of refining. Once you get into the mystery you are hooked, wanting to know how Wilson is going to resolve the issues as the crime is unsolved, but the ending is disappointing. I hope the others in the series get better as I love the idea of writing novels about unsolved Tudor mysteries, of which there are probably quite a few if you dig deep enough.

Author: Helene Harrison

I have an MA in History, with a thesis entitled 'The Many Faces of Anne Boleyn: Perceptions in History, Literature and Film'. I have an interest in the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses along with my love of reading and literature.

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