Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing,
6 November 2014.
6 November 2014.
Maggie Thornhill, digital photographer, has taken on a project to digitise the archive of documents relating to the Salem witch trials. She notices discrepancies in the signatures ... and then there’s a burglary, and those documents go missing. What could be so important in these old trials that it’s worth killing for today?
Like Kennedy’s other prize-winning novels, this has a present day protagonist caught up in a historical mystery. In this case, the focus of the narration moves between Maggie, making discoveries in the present, and sixteen-year-old Felicity Dale, who watches in disbelief as her town of Salem is caught up in witch-fever. Both are sympathetic characters. Maggie’s kindness to Doris, the dead historian’s widow, her cheerful relationship with her dog, Rosie, and her more delicate friendship with officer Frank Meads and attraction to her work colleague, Philip Ambrose, make her likeable, and her work is interestingly unusual. Felicity gains our sympathy straight away in her shuddering horror at the first Salem hangings, and we feel for her dilemma as she gradually learns more about her friends’ fraud. The historical sections were particularly well done, taking the reader straight into the period, and showing its strangeness without making its people too distant for us to grasp: lust, cruelty and greed don’t change.
The long final section was particularly gripping. References to the well-known play The Crucible helped give recognition of the historical characters, although Kennedy was more accurate than Miller, for example, keeping Abigail at her true age of twelve. The modern storyline was equally fast-moving, with Maggie becoming increasingly threatened by the people determined to make sure an old wrong stayed in the past, and the plot and motivation were convincing.
A gripping modern crime novel with its roots in history. If that sounds your kind of book, this is Kennedy’s fourth novel, and there are a few spoilers linked to Maggie’s past, so you might like to begin with her first, The Triangle Murders. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor
Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group. Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.
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