This was pretty much everything I wanted it to be. Honestly, I didn’t even read the synopsis before I ordered this, just because I love reading about alewives, but was even more delighted to learn it’s about female friendship and life post-Black Death in medieval Europe, and also solving murders.
Worth pointing out in its own paragraph: this is an indie author and the book doesn’t have many ratings, so people who love slice of life history, the middle ages, cozy mysteries, and female friendship, come! Flock to this book! And it’s going to be a series!
It’s 1353 C.E. in the Alsatian town of Colmar (which is incredibly beautiful in 2023, Google it!) Our three main characters are beleaguered wife Gritta (who has twelve children whose names she barely knows), Appel (whose husband and children died in the Black Death), and Efi, whose beautiful but lacking common sense husband has just died in an accident that could very much have been prevented. (The slightly black humor of all this was very appealing to me.)
The two widows and overburdened Gritta eventually decide to become alewives to make money, and this doesn’t go as well as they would hope, both because they’re terrible at it at first but also because they are poor women and two are widows (who were looked down on as being unchaste at this time) and not respected by the important men of the town. At one point a priest whines about all the widows in their district refusing to get married and then calls them unchaste harpies.
(Worth noting, the ideal woman in Europe in the middle ages was *not* a wife/mother [let’s thank the Victorians for that], but a virgin like the Virgin Mary. Go figure on how they’re supposed to keep the species alive with that attitude.)
Anyway during all this, and a side plot about Gritta having lost her hoe (made me laugh every time), people start getting murdered, but they’re the only ones who think they’re murders, and can be bothered, because the murdered women are also poor.
The more I think about this one the more I like it, and I will be pre-ordering the second book as soon as it’s announced!