Thursday, September 27, 2018

Book Review: Bewitcher (A Mompesson Mystery Book 1) by Hickory Crowl

Who hunts this plague-ridden English village?  A human?  A demon? 

Set in the Derbyshire village of Eyam in 1666, Betwitcher is a tense, action-filled thriller.  The story has its roots in history, as Eyam fell victim to the bubonic plague in 1665.  But rather than fleeing and possibly infecting the rest of England, the residents decided to quarantine themselves.  Several hundred people in close quarters, many dead or dying, armed only with limited medical knowledge, religion, and superstition.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, according to the book, a human murderer might appear … or a demon … or both.  If you enjoy action, especially of the gruesome sort, between the ritualistic killings of the demon/human and the carnage of the disease, it’s hard to find twenty pages without a vividly described death.

Interspersed with these grisly scenes, the author delivers equally rich descriptions of setting.  Often, those scenes are dark and menacing – forest paths at night, decrepit houses, empty streets.  But sometimes they are peaceful and serene, a contrast that author Crowl uses to full effect.  Character development is also a strength.  Reverend Mompesson is particularly well done as the man of the cloth, torn between religion and the science he hopes may save his village.  It’s an eternal theme, well done in this work.

The detractions from the story were few and minor.  There were a few mechanical errors – a missing word, an awkward phrase.  Second, there were some leaps in reasoning not well founded.  For example, how the Reverend deduced the meaning of a symbol he found at each murder scenes could have used additional development.  And finally, the conclusion is a mixed bag.  The way Reverend Mompesson escapes is a bit convenient, but his ‘situation’ at the end raises all sorts of questions for book 2.  I’ll be watching for it.

Overall, Bewitcher is an entertaining and often grisly mystery well worth the read.

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