The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown
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?
My thanks to Josie at Penguin Randomhouse for my review copy
Matthew Hopkins – the Witchfinder. One of the most notorious figures from a dark period in the history of the UK. He was responsible for many deaths, all in the name of purging witchcraft from England. In The Witchfinder’s Sister Beth Underdown is taking a very different approach to telling his story and it is wonderfully done.
As the title suggests the story is about Hopkins’ sister (Alice). We first meet Alice as she is travelling to her family home, she is pregnant but has recently lost her husband. On returning home she will reside with her brother, Matthew. Their mother has also passed away since Alice was last home so she is returning to an unfamiliar domesticity.
Alice gets settled into her new quarters before we are first introduced to Matthew. He has been travelling so the author can firmly establish the household before she introduces the reader to The Witchfinder. I adored how Beth Underdown allowed us to learn about Matthew, the man, before we start to learn about Matthew, The Witchfinder. We learn of his disfigurement, how he and his sister looked out for each other as children and we see how he runs his house.
Yet as the story evolves – and it is a wonderfully written work of historical fiction – the tension between Alice and Matthew will grow. We see Matthew fade and The Witchfinder come to the fore. He has plans and he has a mission and it will keep everyone enthralled.
Beth Underdown has delivered a magnificent tale, creepy, accessible and enthralling. Highly recommended.
The Witchfinder’s Sister is published by Penguin and is available here
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