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The Apothecary Rose (Owen Archer #1)

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  3,544 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
Once the king's captain of archers, now he must penetrate a poisoner's secrets...

Christmastide, 1363-and, at an abbey in York, two pilgrims die mysteriously dead of an herbal remedy. Suspicious, the Archbishop sends for Owen Archer, a Welshman with the charm of the devil, who's lost one eye to the wars in France and must make a new career as an honest spy.Masquerading as a
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published 1993 by St. Martin's Press
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Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
I found The Apothecary Rose interesting to read since it I'm not that used to read historical mystery books that take place in the 14th century. This mystery was especially interesting since it involves the church. John Thoresby, Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of York sends out one-eyed spy Owen Archer to find out if the two suspicious death at the infirmary of St. Mary's Abbeys are murders and if so who's behind it. Could it be the Master Apothecary Nicholas Wilton or his wife? Or so ...more
There were aspects of this book that I found very enjoyable...the way the city of York was brought to life as almost another character in the book, for example. Also, this is one of those mysteries where you know immediately WHO did it, but the hero does not, and must work at discovering both who and why. Those types of mysteries are often tricky, because there is a danger the reader will grow bored waiting for the detective to catch on. I wasn't terribly bored with this one, but I found the her ...more
Aug 13, 2009 HBalikov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like historical novels as you can see if you search my reviews. Some of the best are series by authors such as Forster, O'Brian and Cornwell. Historical mystery writers have a particular challenge and some, such as Pargeter and Saylor, have mastered it. Candace Robb recognizes that and articulates it as follows: "Writing a historical mystery novel requires the author to wear three hats, novelist, historian and mystery writer. The novelist guards the integrity of the form, the growth of the mai ...more
I enjoyed this book very much. I love historical mysteries, but this one was a bit different for me. It is not a who done it, but a why. The reader knows from the first chapter who, what, and how. The reader is taken along on a journey as the mc meanders through York trying to discover who committed two murders.
The book is set in the year 1363. The author has done much research and does an excellent job of bringing life in the medieval city of York, and some real historical characters to life. O
Aug 14, 2007 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pastpleasures
I marked the read date as July, however, I've read this one several times. The entire Owen Archer series is phenomenal, excellent stories from beginning to end, with characters who are neither all bad nor all good, just a perfect blend of both to make them human and real.

The attention to historical detail is wonderful, although their ideas of 'cures' can sometimes make one cringe in the modern world. Unlike many other mystery books, you aren't kept in suspense as to who did it, for you know righ
Stef Rozitis
I read this book expecting a mystery/crime story and as a representative of that group it must be said that it kind of sucked. The story itself was predictable, and didn't even pretend very hard at being either a puzzle or even a psychological view of a crime (not that I like those). So really, the story was a romance novel featuring a crime. The romance itself irritated me, while I liked the character of Mistress Wilton (I don;t remember her name and NONE of the reviewers mention it which is te ...more
Aug 09, 2016 Kiwi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, it’s a good mystery story with solid historical basis, but I struggled with the author’s narrative style (frequently changing stream of consciousness type POVs).
Dec 01, 2015 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Candace Robb did PhD studies in Medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature (ABD, all-but-dissertation) and has continued to research the fields thoroughly for each book.

Robb also has some intriguing comments on the three hats a writer of historical mysteries must wear. Not all writers of historical mysteries manage all three as well as Robb. She creates well-developed novels with dynamic characters; gets the chronology right (or explains why some changes are included); makes sure that the places she
Jan 16, 2013 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of the drama in this book would have been averted if the actors in it had taken the time to determine whether or not the people they tried to kill did, in fact, die. Check your work, people.
Oct 09, 2015 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will start by noting that I have a weakness for series type books. I enjoy getting to know a character or characters and then following them along in their lives. When presented with the opportunity to review this series it was actually pretty cool because I didn’t have to wait for the next volume to come out – I was going to have almost all of the books at once to read over a two month period. (One of the books is not being re-released. I’m going to try and find it so I can complete the set.) ...more
Oct 09, 2016 P. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the tedious beginning of a long series. To sum briefly: you know who and what and almost why in the first few pages and the remainder of the 319 pages is the hero bungling around trying to figure it out. The conclusion is by turns gothic and silly. There are 10 more books in this series - the mind boggles.
Trish Fowlie
It is difficult for me to get behind Owen Archer as a protagonist because of his status as a mercenary in the service of the grandson of Longshanks, or his vassals. I'm well aware national identity and loyalty to kin and soil were not concepts with any meaning to ordinary folk in those centuries - Archer seems to have left Wales and his family behind with no backward glance to serve the occupying kingdom.
Still, he's a good soldier, and when his wounds make army life too hazardous, he is able to
Elizabeth  (Thoughts From an Evil Overlord)
In fourteenth-century England, Owen is a former archer working for the Archbishop of York, who wants a quiet look into two deaths at one of the Church's abbeys. Taciturn and observant, Owen immediately notices many things that are "off" in the village and the abbey. Some people seem suspicious for no reason and others guilty. Teaming up to share information with the village summoner, the man in charge of watching for people breaking of Church law, a story begins to form for Owen where the pilgri ...more
Nick (Fantasy Book Review)
Terrific, and a total surprise. I bought this book because I like mysteries set in the medieval/middle ages time period. I saw it advertised on Amazon as a recommendation based on the fact that I read the Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael books. It was also free, so I figured what the heck, if it is terrible no big loss. Well, not only was it not terrible, but it was a really great read. I put it right up there with the first Cadfael book and the Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. Ms. Robb captured the ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book starts off by setting the stage – introducing the characters that will soon be suspects and having the murder actually take place. It’s one of the few mysteries I’ve read that began in this manner. Most books start by introducing the main character. This is not most books.

Because of how the story begins, the reader spends a good portion of the book knowing things that the main character hasn’t figured out yet. However, Owen is quick and he figures things out before the halfway point.

Laura Edwards
A 3.5. Promising start to the series. Enjoyable, intriguing characters and backstories. The story did lag quite a bit around the middle, though I understand the author is using the first book to set up said characters and backstories, so I'll cut her some slack. The one thing I did not like was the fact the reader knows that one of Owen's chief suspects, Lucie Wilton, is innocent. Takes away some of the suspense. Hopefully, this does not happen in the books which follow. Also, there were intermi ...more
Mar 30, 2011 Renee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I had to buy this book in paper format, because there is no ebook version. So that was a downer. I did get bored about 3/4 of the way through. I think she is a great writer (the book was well written) but the plot kinda sucked. I thought it was going to be a mystery. We found out who committed the murder at the beginning of the book and did not really find out the why until the end and it was extremely anti-climatic. Not sure if I will go for the second one, since I have to order these books in ...more
Rachel Amphlett
I would have given this first novel in the Owen Archer 4 stars, but sadly the lack of a final edit meant there were some silly annoying mistakes which kept appearing... best example is the use of the phrase "burn in hell" to curse an adversary, which actually appears in the ebook version as "bum in hell"... oh dear...

Will buy the second novel in the series to see how the characters develop... not as gripping as the CJ Sansom "Shardlake" historical novels, but a good introduction to a potential n
The book is well written and well paced. The story never bogs down in too much detail and the action progresses smoothly from one scene to the next. The characters are decently rounded and extremely interesting, particularly the villian, who is almost shower worthingly obsessed. The actions of the characters at the end keeps the suspense nicely ratcheted up and the pages turning.
Jul 25, 2012 Jenni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book and am anxious to read more of the series! Good mystery plot woven into the medieval historical setting. I like how the author presents a story that transports the reader back 700 years but bridges to modern understanding. In other words, just enough historical flavoring without confusing me! Highly recommended for those who enjoy the historical mystery genre.
Aug 22, 2015 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1360's, York; Owen Archer is a Welshman who was Captain of Archers during the 100-year's war with France until he was blinded in one eye. This book is the beginning of a very interesting series of the people and times in the British Isles. I have re-read the series many times.
Jul 19, 2016 Stefania rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ma è un giallo o un romanzo rosa? Io intanto gli appioppo 2 stelline (e mi sento anche generosa).
Jun 17, 2017 Pam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I normally dislike 'whodunit' books. I have to read to the end to find out, then I can read the story. However, this was different because the story itself, isn't just a load of half hinted clues and red herrings. It's brilliantly researched, and gripped me from the very first page.
It was the first Candace Robb book I had ever read and I enjoyed it so much that I bought everything she's written.
Her understanding of Medieval England is all the more astounding because she is Canadian!
Sandy Shin
Jun 16, 2017 Sandy Shin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Another great series. Owen, a Captain of archers lost sight in one eye and must find a new course for his life. Offered a job looking into a suspicious death, he apprentices under an apothecary. Highly-placed clerics, an unsavory sin-tax collector, a mysterious, dubious medico, local tavern owners and the main players in a series of deaths keep the story vibrant.
The pace is never slow and transition from location to location is believable.
Pinko Palest
Not too sure what to make of it. The plot was rather on the simplistic side; all you had to do was to wait for the old aunt to come back and explain all. Some intriguing characters, especially the Summoner and his mother. All in all it was fun at times
Anne Lovett
Mar 09, 2017 Anne Lovett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read; the history rang true, as well as the herbals and poultices. The language used by the characters was understandable yet had the flavor of the age. No excessive goriness (Yay!!) The plot was intricately woven though had a bit of a bobble at the end. I'd recommend this for those who love Brother Cadfael and others like him.
Kelly Torrans
Oct 06, 2016 Kelly Torrans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoy the Owen Archer series. I would recommend to anyone who wants to get absorbed in a story set in a historical past with a little "whodunit." The recurring characters are charming. Each book can be read in an afternoon sitting.
Mar 06, 2017 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, with the story taking place in medieval times. I do think the books of Mel Starr and Priscella Royal are better, if one likes this time period. It seems to me that the setting was not as relevant to the story. Especially since it seems to me that the motivation behind the murders is relevant in any time period. I will read another book by this author before making a decision on this author.
Angela Williams
Apr 14, 2016 Angela Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As other reviewers have mentioned – in this first book of the Owen Archer series you know who was murdered, how and by whom within the first chapter or so. But you don’t know why… until the last couple of pages… so no you don’t get to play detective along with Owen (in this book anyway), and yes that kind of plot is annoying. However, having read a couple more stories in this series, I feel that this book should be considered as setting up the main characters - Owen Archer, former captain of arc ...more
3.5 stars

This is a good read if you like medieval murder mysteries. The main character is an ex-soldier - a Captain of Archers - who becomes a spy in the household of the Duke of Lancaster when he is blinded in one eye. When the Duke dies, Owen Archer is taken on by the Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England, and the story begins in earnest when he is sent on his first mission - to travel to York and find out why the Archbishop's ward died in suspicious circumstances.

The crime is in
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My novels are inspired by my study of the late Middle Ages in Northern Europe. My 3 mystery series feature medieval sleuths: the Kate Clifford mysteries, set in York at the cusp of the 15th c, feature a strong, independent widow forged on the warring northern marches. The Owen Archer mysteries are set in England and Wales in the late 14th century. The Margaret Kerr mysteries in Scotland in the lat
More about Candace Robb...

Other Books in the Series

Owen Archer (10 books)
  • The Lady Chapel (Owen Archer, #2)
  • The Nun's Tale (Owen Archer, #3)
  • The King's Bishop (Owen Archer, #4)
  • The Riddle of St. Leonard's (Owen Archer, #5)
  • A Gift of Sanctuary (Owen Archer, #6)
  • A Spy for the Redeemer (Owen Archer, #7)
  • The Cross-Legged Knight (Owen Archer, #8)
  • The Guilt of Innocents (Owen Archer, #9)
  • A Vigil of Spies (Owen Archer, #10)

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