Booktalk: Death and the Arrow by Chris Priestley

If you ask most teens if they’d like to read a historical fiction book set in the 18th century, they would probably say “no.”  But if they knew that the book in question was a murder mystery featuring a strange figure who marks his victims before he kills them with “death” cards, I think they’d change their minds. 

Death and the Arrow is a suspenseful book set in a historical era not often covered in young adult fiction, and you can recommend it to teens who ask you for good historical fiction books or mysteries.  You can learn more about Chris Priestley at his website, even though the emphasis there is on his Tales of Terror series and more recent releases.


It’s the year 1715 in London, and a man has just been killed.  People are killed every day in London, but it’s the way in which he was killed that was so unusual.  You see, this man was killed by an arrow through the heart.  Not only that, but nobody saw where the arrow came from, and nobody knows who did it.  When the dead man’s body is examined, a card is found in his pocket – a card with a picture of Death holding an arrow.  If this wasn’t strange enough, a few days later the exact same thing happens to another man.  He’s also killed by an arrow that comes out of nowhere, and the same card is found in his pocket.  The city is soon gripped by fear and rumors, and everyone wonders who’ll be next.

Tom Marlowe is following the news like everyone else.  When his friend Will shows up looking terrified, he doesn’t understand why … until Will shows him a “Death and the Arrow” card, and says that his life is in danger.  When Will is found dead later that day, Tom can’t help but get involved in the case.  Will was a pickpocket who spent a lot of time with other criminals.  Tom wonders if maybe he knew the killer; maybe he was killed because he knew too much.  Tom has his work cut out for him, because this case raises so many questions.

How does the killer get to and from the crime scenes without being seen?  Why does he use Mohawk arrows made in America, and how did he get them to London?  And how does he get the “Death and the Arrow” cards on the bodies of his victims … and why?

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