Publication Date: Available Now from Penguin (Viking)
Source: Review Copy
1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.
To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
The Witchfinder’s Sister is a tense, highly atmospheric historical drama based on fact, a book that it is easy to devour in quick smart fashion, with it’s vivid and emotionally drawn characters and a beautifully described sense of place and time.
Alice loses her husband in a tragic accident and having no choice returns home to her brother. Matthew is a strange one, and deeply involved in the local community and wider, whispers of witchcraft abound and it seems no woman is safe from Matthew’s obsession. Alice soon finds herself struggling to accept his words and actions but there is little she can do.
This novel is a mix of history and psychological thriller, Beth Underdown paints a picture – a boy with a troubled past, a real life person who back in that time did what he did – through his fictional sister we see him and he is strangely sympathetic despite his cruel actions. I loved the way the dynamic was drawn between the two of them, a relationship coloured by the social outlook of the time, by the suspicions and beliefs, it was absolutely riveting.
Throughout the read the writing is haunting and atmospheric, with an edge of tension, obviously well researched and cleverly addictive. I was drawn to Alice, a woman who was chained by her circumstances, who wanted to help those whose fiery focus Matthew had, unable to do much but watch on in horror. It was emotionally engaging and scarily riveting.
I took in a breath at the end of the story, a few cleverly placed words made me want to clap my hands over my eyes – but from the first page to that last moment I was totally immersed in this world, not a pleasant place but still entirely brilliantly absorbing and fascinating.
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