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July 6, 2017

An Amazing Debut: The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

by MK French

Matthew Hopkins is known in history as the Witchfinder General, as he had gone throughout Essex County hunting witches. His sister Alice returns home after five years in London and finds him different from the boy she remembers, harsher and colder, capable of cruelties in his search for witches. She loves him and fears him, and tries to find out the source of the coldness in him. At the same time, she's left in a precarious position as a widow without means, and the family history that she uncovers is not one that Matthew wants to hear.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Witchfinder's Sister
April 2017; Ballantine Books; 978-0399179143
ebook, audio, print (336 pages)
historical, supernatural, thriller
Alice's hardships as a woman in 1640's England can be difficult to read at times. She's beholden to her younger brother, caught up in tangled emotions and memories, and is determined to do the right thing no matter what. It's difficult in the face of such superstition, hatred and poor understanding of mental illnesses.

The descriptions of the Hopkins family as well as the villagers point to anxiety, depression and psychosis, which were all believed to be the work of demons or witches at the time. In their ignorance and political/religious zeal (essentially one and the same at that time period), it became a firestorm of suspicion and doubt, where the helpless and poor widows of the county suffered.

Alice isn't left with many choices, and she doesn't interact with many of the accused witches. This leaves the book with a somewhat limited viewpoint, because Alice doesn't know much about what else is happening in the county or with the English Civil War, even though it was mentioned in the beginning. That gives the story a claustrophobic feel, intentional or not, mirroring the fact that Alice is writing the story while trapped in an attic room.

This is an amazing first novel, and I'm sure anything else that Beth Underdown writes will be just as wonderful to read.

Buy The Witchfinder's Sister at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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