Sam Thomas has recently published The Witch Hunter’s Tale, the third novel in his Midwife Mysteries! I have all the information below, plus my review of this stellar third mystery featuring midwife detective Bridget Hodgson.
St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Series: Book Three, The Midwife Mysteries Series
Genre: Historical Mystery
Sam Thomas takes readers back to Puritan England with midwife Bridget Hodgson, hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction.”
Winter has come to the city of York, and with it the threat of witchcraft. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike.
Bridget—accompanied once again by her deputy Martha Hawkins and her nephew Will Hodgson—finds herself playing a lethal game of cat and mouse against the most dangerous men in York, as well as her sworn enemy Rebecca Hooke. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?
I love the midwife historical mysteries by Sam Thomas! He had me hooked from the first one, which was called A Midwife’s Tale and introduced us to the kind, hard-working, no nonsense midwife Bridget. I am not overly into midwifery by any means, but Sam takes his historical research experience of the 17th midwife life and couples it with period details and societal, religious, and political intrigue to plot out fabulous murder mysteries, which of course, Bridget inadvertently becomes involved in solving. He does also highlight the profession of delivering babies as well, which I’ve found has become quite interesting in its technique and manner. As a mom, it makes me cringe thinking what women went through back then in regards to childbirth.
Based on the idea that a midwife with a good name and some wealth can move just about anywhere in the street without the need of a man or husband, Sam can put his lead character Bridget in a good place to really search out clues that might not be an option for many other women in that era. Plus, she’s privy to all kinds of information that would be hard for anyone else to collect as she listens to her female clients’ gossips and understands the nature of all families in the area, whether wealthy or poor. The times are quite heated between people due to the English Civil War, which creates an air of fear and violence.
I have to say that this third mystery, A Witch Hunter’s Tale, has been my favorite of all so far. It could be because I am really interested in the history of witch hunts as well as witches, magic, and alchemy in history. The fact that the book’s mystery delved around the frantic time of the witch hunts being performed in South England, and religious fanaticism taking its hold northward where the series is set, truly had my attention the entire time. I do believe, however, that it’s also Sam’s finest novel to date due to his underlying tones of the persecution of women, and the double standards the laws created against women, as well as his portrayal of the religious fanaticism of the time and how it effected the country’s people and political structures.
I had just recently mentioned to another 17th century British mystery novelist, after reading a post on this site from Cat Cavendish about the infamous 17th century witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, that he’d be great to include in a mystery novel! Then I opened Sam’s book and saw his name mentioned! He wasn’t a character in Sam’s book, but there was some threatening of bringing him in to the area to pull out all the witches. However, the political leaders of the area, including Bridget’s uptight nephew, Joseph, and her nemesis, Rebecca, a former midwife, want all the power for themselves. They start hunting for witches and collecting them in the “gaols,” which Sam writes about with utterly horrid details that allow you, unfortunately, to smell and visualize the surroundings in a way that makes you never want to be transported to that time and place. However, his vivid descriptions are one of the amazing things about this book and they truly allow the reader to feel the plight of these suspected women.
So how does a midwife become involved in witch hunting? Since a midwife is concerned in birthing, she also serves to care for a woman’s body, therefore, she would be able to verify if a woman were a witch by finding a teat or witch’s mark on the body. Due to this, Bridget is quietly worried they will ask her to perform this exam, for if they are determined to hang someone as a witch, and have other proof, but as a midwife she finds the examination clear, she could be called a witch herself! Luckily, she has enough family prestige to not have a finger pointed at her, but some people will go to any means (even lying or killing) as a Searcher to torture and hang women, putting the fear of God into all the area.
Once the murder has occurred in the novel, Bridget becomes wholly invested in finding the truth, as her other nephew Will, of whom she treats like a son, is accused and thrown into jail by his own brother. Martha, Bridget’s trusty deputy midwife (and deputy amateur detective alongside her), are on the case to redeem Will’s name and save his life.
Other themes explored within this novel are Bridget’s inner emotions over losing her two children when they were young, as well as her husband. This happened in her life before even the first novel, and as a midwife she finds joy in delivering babies and had seemed to put it mostly out of her mind. But in this third novel, the author really examines her feelings of their deaths and how it effects her spirituality, her take on life and God’s role in it, her connections with those she has now come to love, and with the addition of little Elizabeth (an orphan) coming to live with Bridget, I saw more of her nurturing side in a way that really endeared me more towards the midwife. His character development of Bridget, as well as the other supporting characters in this novel, became more dimensional and deep. Plus, I just love how this sleuth and sidekick (Bridget and Martha) are female leads, with the men in supporting roles!
In The Witch Hunter’s Tale, Sam writes with great historical details, sensational description, deep and heartfelt emotion, and a formidable plot that kept me guessing and turning the pages right up to the end. I’d highly recommend this book, both in the series and as a stand alone, to anyone who loves mysteries or 17th century English life. He truly connects the reader to this era in northern England, which is ripe with strife, confusion, religiosity, and fear, and shows us how one woman can care for an entire town, and her hodgepodge of a family, just by opening her heart.
“Sam Thomas has created one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction—a crime-solving, wealthy, widowed midwife in embattled 17th-century York, England. . . . Bridget is as fascinating, fun and fierce as ever.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Harlot’s Tale”Besides making his heroine a plausible sleuth, Thomas conveys the challenges of midwifery without clumsy exposition.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Harlot’s Tale
“As pleasurable as his mystery is, the true thrill here is Thomas’s lively portrait of 1644 York and his unique heroine.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Midwife’s Tale
“A briskly plotted historical mystery starring a pair of brave, tenacious, intelligent women who take no prisoners and make no apologies.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of Gods of Gotham
“Thomas is a historian by profession and it shows in the wealth of detail with which he recreates the city of York amid the turmoil of the English civil war.” —Rhys Bowen, author of the bestselling Royal Spyness series
“A heart-stopping page-turner coupled with a gritty and realistic portrayal of two strong and contrasting woman characters vividly depicted against the backdrop of the besieged city of York.” —Cora Harrison, author of I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend
“The gripping story, fascinating characters, and intriguing era make Thomas’s debut mystery a reader’s delight.” —Priscilla Royal, author of The Killing Season
“Thomas’s fiction debut is packed with fascinating information about a midwife’s skills and life during the English civil war. The ingenious, fast-paced mystery is a bonus.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Midwife’s Tale
“Everything rings true in historian Thomas’s superb first mystery. . . Authentic details of life in 17th-century York complement the whodunit’s intelligently concealed clues.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Midwife’s Tale
Buy the Book~
Sam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and recently leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio. Formerly, he was an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.
The Witch Hunter’s Tale Blog Tour Schedule~
Wednesday, February 11
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing
Friday, February 13
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, February 18
Review at Back Porchervations
Thursday, February 19
Interview at Back Porchervations
Tuesday, February 24
Review at A Book Geek