Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022

Excerpt from The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Swift and the Harrier

by Minette Walters

The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters X
The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Jul 2022, 500 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Maria Katsulos
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"John Bankes of Corfe."

Jayne made a play of lifting her heavy satchel from across her shoulders to give herself an excuse to lower her head and avoid the other woman's all-too-penetrating gaze. She could hardly accuse an elderly matriarch of lying, but her disbelieving expression would have made her skepticism clear. Sir John was the King's Chief Justice, owner of Corfe Castle, and a Royalist to his core. His booming voice could often be heard condemning Parliament for inciting discontent, and he pledged his castle and his household to the King's cause as soon as war became inevitable. How could he be brother to this pale Puritan who looked as if strong meat and intoxicating liquor never touched her lips?

The reason for Sir John's gout had been obvious in his huge girth and the broken veins in his bulbous nose and fat cheeks, and he hadn't taken kindly to Jayne's removal of the tankard of brandy that he hugged against his chest. As for praise, there had been none. Sir John had had only insults for Jayne throughout the time she'd ministered to him. When she wasn't an "imperious despot" for forcing him to drink water in "hideous" quantities and a "vile torturer" for holding his throbbing foot in a bucket of costly imported ice, she was a "two-faced shrew" for teaching his wife to prolong his persecution. Every other physician bled him with leeches. Where were hers? And how dare his friend Richard Theale send a woman in his place?

The first lesson Richard had taught Jayne when she began her studies with him was never to betray a patient's confidence. If she couldn't earn a reputation as a physician through the success of her healing methods, she'd not do so by naming her clients and their ailments. Leave that to the quacks, he'd said. Men of little ability had no other way to attract business than by listing which members of the gentry they'd tended.

"Forgive me, ma'am, but I doubt your brother would want you discussing him with a stranger. I know mine would not." To divert the woman's attention, she gestured towards the portrait of a handsome man, hanging on the wall behind the chairs. "Is that your husband?"

The matriarch's mouth twitched. "My husband had a cast in his eye and would never allow me to paint him. That's John when he was a struggling young lawyer. He was quite beautiful before the King's patronage turned him rubicund and fleshy. I've caught his image several times during his life."

Jayne could see the likeness now that it was pointed out. The shape of the face might have changed but not the eyes. "You're a fine artist, ma'am."

"Some say so."

Jayne moved closer and made out a signature in the bottom right-hand corner of the painting. It was a name of some renown, Gilbert Jackson, and she wondered if the woman had lied about being the artist or had forged the signature to add spurious value to her work. Either way, Jayne decided she'd rather take her chances on the street than remain in this house. Neither solitude nor religious fervor was healthy, and it was a strange lunacy that adopted the manner and dress of Puritanism while claiming close connections with artists and prominent Royalists.

She reached for her bag again. "You must forgive me, ma'am, but I truly must leave. My cousin begged me to make haste and I am pledged to honor her wish."

The matriarch nodded. "No doubt requesting that you come during the executions when she knew Samuel would be away?" When Jayne made no answer, she went on: "It won't help you. Ruth will have no more authority to admit you in her husband's absence than when he's there, so you must be forceful in demanding entry." She pushed herself to her feet, wincing again at the effort. "Allow me and my footman to escort you. Three will make better progress than one, and William has the strength to push against the door if the need arises."

There was no gainsaying her. She led Jayne through an interlocking room, magnificently furnished and with several more portraits on the walls, and thence down a corridor to the kitchen. Several startled maids dropped deep curtsies, and a footman rose from his seat at a table and bent his neck in a bow. "You should have rung, milady."

From The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters. Used with the permission of the publisher, Blackstone Publishing. Copyright ©2022 by Minette Walters.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Larval Therapy

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    by Richard Powers
    In 2019, Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for The Overstory, a sprawling novel whose characters...
  • Book Jacket: I'm the Girl
    I'm the Girl
    by Courtney Summers
    YA author Courtney Summers doesn't believe in shielding her teenage readers from the world's darkest...
  • Book Jacket: They're Going to Love You
    They're Going to Love You
    by Meg Howrey
    Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly ...
  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Our Missing Hearts
    by Celeste Ng

    From the author of Little Fires Everywhere, a new novel about a mother’s unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear.


Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Cradles of the Reich
by Jennifer Coburn
Three women, a nation seduced by a madman, and the Nazi breeding program to create a so-called master race.
Who Said...

No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.