I haven't read the previous book in The Midwife Mysteries by Sam Thomas, but when the opportunity presented itself, I agreed to read and review The Witch Hunter's Tales because I am always interested in historical fiction dealing with the witch hunts. I was pleasantly surprised that the novel deals with more than just the hunting of witches though. I found Bridget Hodgson to be a complicated, intelligent and worthy protagonist and her deputy Martha is an admirable assistant.
Despite the fact that I missed many of their previous adventures, I still enjoyed their story very much. There is enough background so that I didn't feel lost, but it also didn't bog down the current story. I enjoyed how complicated the story became after the idea of witches in their midst became the topic of conversation and sermons from the pulpit. The way the fear was stirred up and the flames of panic were fanned by the unscrupulous and conniving pair, Joseph Hodgson and Rebecca Hooke was quite masterful. That pair are just reprehensible and have no redeeming qualities -- which make them great villains.
Despite the injustice of the situation, the fearful townspeople are willing participants in the hunts and I thought Thomas did a good job of explaining all the various motivations and complications that played into the situation. In the midst of all the chaos, and Martha are still performing their midwife duties, and that aspect of the novel was quite interesting as well. Sometimes we tend to forget how dangerous childbirth was and also how much of a community event it could be - with all the neighbor women or gossips gathered around.
I liked the fact that neither Bridget or Martha are presented as perfect; they are presented as intelligent, caring, and wise to the ways of politics and government, but not without their own points of weakness. The history of their loss of faith in the workings of government are explained and it is hard to fault some of their decisions despite the unlawfulness of some of them. At the same time, they wrestle with the implications of their actions and the results. Needless to say, the book causes the reader to think - which is always a good thing. Unlike some books, things are not really black and white - no one is all good or all bad -- well, some people may actually be all bad. . .
I enjoyed the book and read it very quickly, but without the anxious feeling caused by some books. I was able to enjoy the mystery/crime solving while also enjoying the depiction of the historical period presented in the story. I have put the first two book in the series on my TBR list and I hope to read them in the near future. I definitely recommend The Witch Hunter's Tale to anyone who is interested in reading historical fiction in general, but especially about the witch hunts, or Puritan England and/or the English Civil War period.