Book Review : The Witch Finders Sister

The Witchfinders Sister by Beth Underdown

  • Released :  2nd March 2017
  • Series : Stand alone
  • Publisher: Viking Books
  • Pages: 368
  • Source: Purchased
  • Buy it: Amazon

The captivating Richard & Judy Book Club historical thriller 2018

From the Inside Flap

“Until now, mine and Matthew’s history has lived in the dark. 
But now I must turn over the stone: that you might see it, wriggling to escape. 

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she has no choice but to return to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives. But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witches, and of a great book, in which her brother is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will her brother’s obsession drive him? And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan”

I’ll try to avoid spoilers !

This story is based on the true life of the infamous witch-finder Matthew Hopkins who became know as the ‘Witch Finder General’. His reign of terror between 1645 -1646 took the lives of 106 innocent women, whom were condemned to death by forced confections and false evidence.

This story is told through the eyes of his sister Alice (a fictional character) as if she is writing her memoire’s. The book starting with her reluctant return to her brothers home after 5 years of no contact with him in search of help. When she arrives at her brothers home she finds things don’t seem right from where he is living to how he is acting, and this is where the first site of her brothers persecutions show up namely against her mother in law.

The book although written together has two distinct paths first being Matthews and his witch obsession and secondly is Alice is trying to understand why her brother has become the way he has but finds herself asking more and more questions about her own family and the skeletons in their closest not just about Matthew and why he is obsessed with so-called ‘Witches’. So you get glimpses of their past as children growing up and her life with her husband, just little snippets you feel you need to remember for later on in the book so you are trying to piece it all together, The who’s, the where’s and the whys ( you can’t help yourself trust me).

This book is a gripping tale with a beautiful balanced mix of fantasy and fiction that unless you knew better could easily be read as truth about Matthew Hopkins life. It is rich in details and atmosphere, holding you tightly wanting the next page to give you an answer or reason. The author has done her research well and in doing so has given the story depth and realism. I have read reviews saying the book could have been written in half the amount of pages but I feel its these extra details that gives the book that deeper leave to it . I personally like my books to have a greater detail to them so I can become absorbed in it completely … Well isn’t that the point of books to become part of that world, although I wouldn’t like to be part of the Witch trials !

There are many times in the book that were disturbing and sent shiver up my spine because unlike many novels the worst parts are based on fact and due to reading factual books on the witch trial and how they forced confessions my mind had a tendency to run away from me. It’s disturbing to think that a human could do these awful thing to someone else so easily and without remorse just cold and caluclated cruelty without a real reason or purpose and without true evidence.

This book has the ability to being out emotions it impossible not to feel deeply for the poor women who were accused of a crime they didn’t commit and were put through hell for false confessions and that no one was above suspicion or angry at Matthew and his peers in how they lie and cheat people.

Simple put the book is amazing, it draws you in and doesn’t want to let you go I highly recommend you read this book, I doubt you will be sorry you did !

About The Author

Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is her first novel, and is out with Viking in the UK and Ballantine in the US in Spring 2017. The book is based on the life of the 1640s witch-finder Matthew Hopkins, whom she first came across while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.

This is the first book written by Beth Underdown and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.


Have you read The Witchfinder’s Sister ?  What did you think of it ? Or is it on your to read list ?

Lots of Love Berry xx

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