The Witch-Hunter’s Tale

Written by Sam Thomas
Review by Cecelia Holland

This is the third in the author’s mystery series set during the English Civil War, starring Lady Bridget Hodgson, noblewoman and midwife. The novel begins slowly, with Thomas filling in lots of backstory, but once Lady Hodgson’s friend and suitor is murdered, the book picks up. Thomas has an interesting story, told against the backdrop of a witch hunt, set in the ancient northern city of York.

Thomas knows a lot about midwifery, which livens up several scenes in the book, and he evokes the city of York during a brutally cold winter in a way that makes your teeth chatter. As his heroine attempts to find out who killed her friend, she stumbles into the middle of a tangle of devilish alliances.

Unfortunately, Thomas doesn’t exploit the potential in his plot. His narrative has no pace and little drama in spite of the horrendous details, and most of his characters are hardly more distinct than names. Bridget Hodgson is unconvincing. She believes in the reality of witches; at the same time, in most of other aspects of her life, she acts as a thoroughly modern woman, independent, well-off and refusing to defer to men. She acts, in fact, like a man with a woman’s name.