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Historical novels can be difficult to penetrate, especially if you have no particular interest in the time and context they are set. The Flowers of Evil, set in the crusading early twelfth century, skillfully overcomes this dilemma. First, as is relatively common, by using the present tense to help you empathise with the main character Hugh de Verdon. Second, more unusually, by bringing you back to the present time every other chapter. This clever device helps move the historical narrative along as well as introducing an interesting modern-day sub plot. Intelligently and perceptively written, The Flowers of Evil (ref. 'Fleurs du Mal' - Baudelaire) is a welcome and worthy addition to The Waste Land (ref. T.S. Eliot), Acland's debut, which we waxed lyrical about when it was published last year. Rest assured it's well worth a read whether you're a historical fiction fan or not.