In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas's remarkable debut, The Midwife's Tale
It is 1644, and Parliament's armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels' hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget's friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.
Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who's far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha's past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city's most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther's murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.
Everything rings true in historian Thomas s superb first mystery, set in 1644 during the English civil war. While antimonarchist rebels lay siege to York, midwife Bridget Hodgson ventures to a city parish not her own to help deliver a bastard child about to be born to a maidservant perhaps twenty-three years old and no great beauty, who refuses to divulge the name of the father. Bridget faces a quandary because she can t legally attend a labor unless she can identify the father, to spare the city having to support the child. Bridget later faces a greater crisis when her dear friend, Esther Cooper, is accused of fatally poisoning her husband, a crime defined as treason. To gain time to investigate, Bridget avers that Esther is pregnant in order to defer the date of execution until she comes to term. Authentic details of life in 17th-century York complement the whodunit s intelligently concealed clues.
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Fantastic debut novel!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dr. Thomas's first installment of the Bridget Hodgson series. It is exceedingly well written, featuring highly engaging characters, touches of humor, a riveting story line, and a rare glimpse into life of in Early Modern England. Even rarer is the chance to read it in the voice of an educated, strong female character. The Midwife's Tale is a brilliant and intriguing mystery that reflects the author's deep academic knowledge of the time period and the practice of midwifery, as well as his ability to see the world through the characters' eyes. I can't wait for the next installment!