A thrilling debut novel, a literary historical thriller based on the devastating witch hunts in 1640s England conducted by “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins—for readers of Sarah Waters and Katherine Howe.
Before Salem, there was Manningtree. . . .
“This summer, my brother Matthew set himself to killing women, but without ever once breaking the law.”
Essex, England, 1645. With a heavy heart, Alice Hopkins returns to the small town she grew up in. Widowed, with child, and without prospects, she is forced to find refuge at the house of her younger brother, Matthew. In the five years she has been gone, the boy she knew has become a man of influence and wealth—but more has changed than merely his fortunes. Alice fears that even as the cruel burns of a childhood accident still mark his face, something terrible has scarred Matthew’s soul.
There is a new darkness in the town, too—frightened whispers are stirring in the streets, and Alice’s blood runs cold with dread when she discovers that 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. But as Matthew’s reign of terror spreads, Alice must choose between her safety and her soul.
Alone and surrounded by suspicious eyes, Alice seeks out the fuel firing her brother’s brutal mission—and is drawn into the Hopkins family’s past. There she finds secrets nested within secrets: and at their heart, the poisonous truth. Only by putting her own life and liberty in peril can she defeat this darkest of evils—before more innocent women are forced to the gallows.
Inspired by the real-life story of notorious “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, Beth Underdown’s thrilling debut novel blends spellbinding history with harrowing storytelling for a truly haunting reading experience.
It’s a little hard to get my thoughts in order about The Witchfinder’s Sister. Up until about 60% into the book, I had quite a “meh” feeling about the story because it read so very slow. A lot of the times I had to force myself to pick the book up to read. I didn’t think it was totally bad, I just didn’t love it and I wasn’t sure if I liked it all that much either.
BUT… those last 40% did save the book for me. That’s where the story started picking up a whole lot more and where I got really into it. As hard as it was to pick up the book before, now I didn’t want to put it back down. And I liked the story even more for how the author ended it.
Throughout that first half of the book I wasn’t sure what to think of the characters. I thought all of them were a little bland to read about and the pace of the story was slow so it was hard to connect with them, especially the main character Alice. I did warm up to her as the book progressed, especially during the second half.
Alice’s brother, Matthew (who is the “witchfinder” from the title) was hard to pin down at first for me. But in those last few chapters he gave me honest-to-god chills because of what he did to all those women. In a way it was good he gave me chills but damn, he sure was creepy at times. Some parts in the book really creeped me out.
Overall, The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown was nothing like I had expected. It was hard to get into the story and to connect with the characters at first but I did think it was very well-written and like I said, I liked how the story ended. I would say it’s worth a read just for that ending alone, actually. But of course I wished I had liked it more from the start and not just those last 40%. Still, it’s a pretty unique story that I’m glad I read.
The Witchfinder’s Sister is her first novel, and is out with Viking in the UK and Ballantine in the US in Spring 2017. The book is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins, whom she first came across while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.