The Witch Hunter’s Amulet
Marco Lobo’s utterly fascinating novel is set during the 1560s when the Inquisition raged across Europe, but Europe is far, far away from the action of Lobo’s book. In these pages, feared and reviled witch hunter Manuel Andrade is sent by his Catholic church masters to the far reaches of the Portuguese empire—in this case to Goa, India, where Andrade arrives in 1564 and, like most newcomers to India, is immediately felled by the heat, the humidity, the very strangeness of the place. He links his survival to the possession of the amulet in the book’s title, but in truth fanatics like Andrade (“I know all about Satan,” he says. “I’ve made my living by him”) can survive anywhere they have fear to play upon. Lobo’s novel—leanly and energetically written, and expertly produced by Christopher Matthews Publishing—delves deeply into the mechanics of such cultural fears, turning a key element of the plot around the very appealing character of converso Abraham Garcia and the very personal elements of institutional religious persecution. The novel is also filled with the local sights, sounds, and customs of 16th-century India, from crowded bazaars to tiger hunts. Most readers will be able to guess what happens when the machinery Andrade has served so zealously turns on him, but that element of predictability doesn’t diminish the many enjoyments on offer here. A very entertaining debut novel.