by Roberta Rich
Ebury press, paperback £7.99
Constantinople in the 16th century provides a colourful background for Roberta Rich’s second novel. In fact it is a sequel, but stands equally well on its own, such is the pulling power of the story and the twists and turns of good and bad.
Hannah is the midwife, a Jewish wife called into the Harem of Murat III when required.
Answering such a call puts her and her husband in deadly danger as she declares that the Sultan’s latest prisoner to be dragged into his harem is worthy of his attention.
An attention to historic detail is part of the package Roberta Rich has put together very skilfully, weaving an acceptable and gripping story as the happiness of Hannah and her husband Isaac is threatened not only by the intrigues of the harem, but by others keen to profit at their expense.
It is a most unusual subject, but that makes it all the more compelling. The television Midwives have it easy compared to this nurse five centuries ago, even though it is just a story.
The drama builds carefully and conveniently, coming to a dramatic conclusion which, I guess, calls out for a third story of the Jewish midwife.