Posts Tagged ‘Beth Underdown’


** My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book **



The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

It has been waiting in the dark, Matthew’s history – our history. But now I must turn over the stone: that you might see it, wriggling to escape…

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 Thoughts & Review:

I have to admit that I have had this book on my “to read pile” for some time, almost a year in fact, and part of my taking a break in January from blogging was to allow me to pick up the books that ended up being shunted down the pile as more blog tour reads arrived.  This was one such book that kept slipping down the list and never seemed to get to the top but thankfully one weekend I decided to grab it and see where it would take me.

I love historical fiction, certain eras and settings will just call out to me to read them and this book was one that I was looking so forward to reading.  Based loosely on the life of Matthew Hopkins, a witch hunter in the mid 1600s in England, the reader is presented with a perceptive and thought out account of the barbaric and heinous crimes committed against women under the guise of ridding the country of witches.

Alice Hopkins is the voice of the narrator in this book, and she begins her story from what appears to be confinement, leaving the reader to wonder the reasons for her incarceration and just how she met this fate.  As Alice slowly recounts her tale, we learn that she returned home to Essex following the death of her husband in London.  Newly widowed, she also learns of the death of her mother, and makes the arduous journey to return to the only family she has left in England, her younger brother Matthew.
Painting a rather vivid portrait of Matthew, Alice recounts a close childhood where they were co-conspirators almost.  However, with the passing of time and her absence from the family home, Matthew has become Master of the house and much changed.  Alice almost fears her brother, aware that she is awaiting his return from business with great anxiety.  He offers her no comfort, and indeed the starkness of the Thorn compliments perfectly the lacking of compassion that Matthew shows to his sister.

The horrors of this story occur when Alice becomes fully aware of the witch hunts, Alice almost not wanting to believe that her brother could be involved with this business until it is too late.  Matthew Hopkins was granted permission in law to target women in the country and surroundings, carrying out heinous and torturous acts as a means of detecting witchcraft or verifying that the accused women were in league with the Devil.  The author has done a tremendous job of recreating the panic and ill ease of the period that faced women who stood out for one reason or another.  The frightening realism of the acts has been documented throughout history and having studied this during the course of my time at university I honestly do feel that Beth Underdown does a superb job in her writing.  This however does not make it any easier to read and any less harrowing.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is a tremendous book, and one that I think that fans of historical fiction will enjoy.  There is so much more to this book than the plot, there vivid descriptions transport readers to 1600s England, feeling the mud underfoot, smelling the musty air of a closed up house, seeing fear ingrained by the idea that one rumour could be all it takes to cast suspicion and endanger a life….a truly powerful and magnificent read!

You can buy a copy of The Witchfinder’s Sister via:

Amazon UK
Book Depository

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