The Gallows Curse
Elena acts as a maid for Lady Anne, but strange dreams begin to plague Elena’s sleep. In desperation, she visits the local cunning woman, who has been waiting for an opportunity to fulfil an ancient curse conjured at the gallows. Haunted by this curse and accused of a murder she did not commit, Elena flees her village, but her past comes back to haunt her.
This historical crime novel is steeped in curses, folklore and superstition. King John and the whole of England have been excommunicated, and priests are few and far between. The brutality and fear of 12th-century England comes alive under this writer’s hand, and this is described in minute and visceral detail. The book is well written and rich in metaphorical language and prose. As the tale is narrated by a mandrake, this adds to its originality. The two central characters are well depicted, and it is fascinating reading the short pieces from The Mandrake’s Herbal which grace each chapter. They really add to the atmosphere of witchcraft and base brutality which Maitland weaves in and around the main story, that of Elena and the Steward Raffe. A much-needed glossary is contained at the back because of all the unusual terms you learn as you go along. There are plenty of twists to this yarn, and this makes for a great story.