This is not just a story about a bunch of people getting sick, and I don't say that to underscore the enormity of the Black Plague. To be sure, as the Bubonic front crept across Europe, it took with it 1/3 of the population, so there's no shortage of morbid spectacle for the author to work with. Tales of sacrifice. Corpses in the street. Desperate religious festivals filled with throngs of the terrified, praying that their town be spared the pestilence... John Kelly delivers these in all their dazzling technicolor atrocity, but the real satisfaction of this book is the context and significance he furnishes in retrospect. How does this event fit in the "big picture" of history? What is its significance? As it turns out, plenty. The political economy of the 1300's very much favored wealthy landowners over indentured peasantry. When the epidemic wiped out a sizable portion of the workforce, everything changed. Labor became a "seller's market". Lords who couldn't get enough manpower to work the land turned to moneylenders to underwrite contract work, thus increasing the power and significance of lenders (God help us). Towns and cities grew. Efficiency and invention became more appreciated. For my money, this is the most satisfying sort of historical nonfiction.