Book review: Blood on the Borders, by Judith Cook


Simon Forman, physician, astrologer, philanderer and all round greetin’ faced plum, finds himself at the centre of a series of events that have him traversing the length and breadth of Scotland in search of the truth – and with much blood being shed in the desire for the one thing man craves more than everything else – even money – and that is power.

Blood on the Borders is set in the late 16th century and is based on bona fide historical characters and events, fused with a sprinkling of fiction to give us a story of English thrones and Scottish courts colliding.

It’s May and Forman’s door is happened upon by a young Scot who has been cut down in London as he tried to deliver a message to Lord Chamberlain. The Scots’ brother, Alun Armstrong, is shielded by Forman and this sets in to motion the events which would see Forman go to Edinburgh to find a way out of his predicament, but instead he finds murder at every corner and with every stitch of evidence pointing at him. Only he can prove his innocence but with unseen hands determined that Forman be seen to be a killer, and all for political intrigue, he is left not knowing who to trust and where to turn in the, to him anyway, unfamiliar city of Edinburgh.

Cook has obviously researched the book in some detail and shares her thoughts at the end, and in Forman she has chosen a most interesting character. Her description of 16th century Edinburgh, the area around the Royal Mile and Holyrood especially, is very good and really helps the reader place themselves back some 420 years and into the world in which Forman is trying to survive.

Blood on the Borders presents a frenetic and bloody period in the Scots/English history in an interesting light and with the help of some fact and fiction cross-over, Cook allows us to see what life was like back then without having to get bored listening to some old history teacher drone on. Good stuff.

7/10

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