“This summer, my brother Matthew set himself to killing women, but without ever once breaking the law.”
This thrilling debut novel by Beth Underdown is based loosely on the life of the infamous “witchfinder general” Matthew Hopkins of the mid 17th century.
The story is narrated by his sister, Alice, who, pregnant, must return to her younger brother’s household after the sudden death of her husband in London. Alice, an apparent prisoner as the story opens, portrays her brother as a misogynist serial killer above reproach.
“The number of women my brother Matthew killed, as far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six.”
Upon returning home, Alice finds there is a new darkness in the town—frightened whispers are stirring in the streets: whispers of witchcraft, and of a book in which he is gathering women’s names.
Home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed. Alice soon finds secrets nested within secrets: and at their heart, the poisonous truth: Matthew is a ruthless hunter of suspected witches.
Torn between devotion to her brother and horror at what he’s become, Alice is desperate to intervene—and deathly afraid of the consequences.
Alice is soon on a journey facing the most darkest of evils… ones own self.
“…Father had said to me once that the most fearful thing you could meet down a dark lane was another person. But it is not so, I thought, as we rode toward the Thorn: what you meet in the dark is yourself. And that is truly a thing to be feared.”
This was truly an amazing novel about this time period, and I recommend it to anyone who loves history, and especially the 17th century witch trials.
The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown
Published by: Penguin Random House
Purchased: Barnes and Noble
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Beth Underdown lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. Her first novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister, is based on the life of the 1640s witchfinder Matthew Hopkins. Beth’s interest in seventeenth-century England was sparked by the work of her great-uncle David Underdown, one of that period’s foremost historians. She came across a brief mention of Matthew Hopkins while reading a book about midwifery, igniting an interest which turned into an all-consuming hunt for the elusive truth about this infamous killer.