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Reviewed by Caleb Shadis
The Apothecary Rose is the first book in the Owen Archer series by Candace Robb (pen name Emma Campion). The book takes place in York, England in the mid-14th century. I thought I recognized the name of the author but since this was the first book in the series I assumed it was also a new series. I’m happy to report there are actually 10 books in this series that have already been published and I am eager to add them to my collection!
Owen Archer, a Welshman, had made his way up to Captain of Archers. But a kindness cost him an eye. While he was still a reasonable shot as an archer and his men would still follow him eagerly into battle, he felt it was the end of his military career. Owen’s master, the Duke of Lancaster, was disappointed at not being able to keep Owen as the Captain of Archers and convinced him to be trained as his spy instead. This included training in reading and writing and a host of other useful tasks.
After Owen’s training but before he was really challenged with his new duties, the Duke died. Before he died, he asked the Lord Chancellor to look out for Owen. The Lord Chancellor had a ward who met an abrupt end. He asks Owen to look into it for him and find out what actually happened; the boy was a bit of a cad and might have created an enemy willing to murder.
Owen gets a post as an apprentice to an apothecary in York as his cover for the investigation. The post puts him with Lucie and Wilton. Lucie is Wilton’s wife and he just had a stroke which keeps him bedridden. Lucie has mixed feelings about accepting Owen, partly because he seems to see more than he should, even with just one eye, and Lucie knows some secrets that she can’t bare to see the light of day. And even though Lucie is still married, the two also seem to be attracted to each other.
Owen’s arrival in York coincides with two similar and equally mysterious deaths and a third incident that leaves the victim an invalid. Adding to Owen’s troubles, the local Archdeacon develops an instant dislike for the one-eyed spy and tries to get him out of the way.
I really enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to the reprints from Diversion Press as they become available. The Apothecary Rose was an excellent mystery and really brought the past back to life. Owen was a good dependable man and he made his own way in life. The second book should be just as good but I suspect it will be quite a bit different because of the ending of this one!
Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.
Check out books 9 and 10 in the Owen Archer Series
Review and giveaway copies were provided by Candace Robb. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.