For the Joy of Reading: Death is a Welcome Guest

Louise Welsh is a stunning writer. The first of her books that I read was “Tamburlaine the Great”.I admit that it was the cover picture of Anthony Sher in the title role of the Royal Shakespeare Company production that first drew my attention. And that was to my advantage because it introduced me to some enjoyable books.

“Death is a Welcome Guest” is the second book in “The Plague Times Trilogy”.     The first book is “A Lovely Way to Burn” but you do not have to have read it to enjoy this tale.

The premise is the same as that of Terry Nation’s cult TV series of the 1970s “Survivors”.   A plague, which people call “the sweats” has wiped out a huge proportion of the population.   At first, the authorities do not take it seriously and by the time they do, it is far too late.   Louise Welsh makes the point, in passing, that there was probably nothing that the authorities could have done anyway.   Except, perhaps, not to experiment with chemical and germ warfare, but the blame is never laid there, because there is no indication of what caused “the sweats”.   The story examines how individuals deal, or fail to deal, with an overwhelming catastrophe.

Magnus, somewhat the worse for drink, intervenes when he sees a man assaulting a woman, gets himself arrested and ends up in Pentonville in the sex offenders wing.   The the plague strikes, followed by a prison breakout.   What follows is a descent into chaos, as society disintegrates.   Magnus tries to make his way to orkney to find his family, and becomes involved in a small community trying to rebuild their lives.   People, however, are disappearing and then bodies are found.   Magnus and his new companions have to find out what is happening, and try to stop it.

Louise Welsh writes with convincing detail, and the world that she creates is an utterly believable world of horror.   This is a book that will leave you uneasy, and waiting for the final book in the trilogy so that you can know what happens, and how people will survive.


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