I bought this book, in hardback, a week ago in Waterstones, on a bit of whim. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a real interest in the history of Britain under the Stuart Kings, and I’ve always had a bit of interest in magic, mystery, and the macabre. This book promised to hit both with its tale of ‘Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction’ in the case of the Belvoir witches.
Unfortunately, instead of telling an interesting story, the book is mostly just an information dump of facts about witch trials in England over a two-hundred year period. Every time the author makes any point, she feels the need to back up the point with two or three quotes from period sources. These quotes, some of which are quite lengthy, are interesting at first, but grow increasingly annoying, especially as they are presented in their original seventeenth century spelling. The reading soon becomes tedious.
In many places the author manages to go pages without any reference to the story she is supposedly telling, and when she does return to it, it is often presented with a non-historic word such as ‘probably, maybe, possibly’.
This book is a glaring example of something that is seen all too often in historical publishing. Although the story of the Belvoir witches certainly contains a few interesting details, it is painfully obvious that there is far too little historical fact about the case to form the basis for a book length discussion. The author really should have accepted that and moved on.