Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: The Witch Hunter by Bernard Knight

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2004

A Medieval Mystery

Exeter, 1195.............When a wealthy mill-owner falls dead across his horse, Sir John de Wolfe, the county coroner, declines to hold an inquest as the man was considerably overweight, had been complaining of chest pains and shows no sign of injury. A clear-cut case of death from natural causes.
Events take a sinister turn when a straw doll is discovered hidden beneath the man's saddlebag, a thin metal spike through its heart.

Convinced her husband's death was caused by an evil spell, the victim's strident widow begins a campaign against withcraft and the so-called 'cunning women' who practise it. Soon Exeter is in turmoil, an hysterical mob is on the loose and several local women are in danger.
Still the coroner refuses to get involved - until his own mistress falls under suspicion. To save her he must discover the real cause of the merchant's death.

The Witch Hunter is the eighth in Bernard Knights Crowner John series (crowner is the medieval name for coroner) but the first I've read and overall it fell a bit flat. The historical background is very good and I enjoyed reading of the paganism , old superstitions and healing remedies that the common people held on to despite the efforts of the Church to eradicate them but the plot and the characters failed to impress. I couldn't help but compare with the bawdiness and larger than life characters of Ariana Franklins Mistress of the Art of Death series which really bring her books alive .

I read The Witch Hunter for the ABC challenge at Historical Tapestry and I'm having to stretch it a bit. I did try and spent quite a time looking but this was the best I could do for X. I'll be interested to see what other participants managed to find.

Historical Tapestry ABC Challenge

X is for EXeter


  1. The setting sounds intriguing (especially the business with the paganism and cunning women). How does it compare with others in the series?

    X is a difficult letter!

  2. This looks wonderful -- I'm always fascinated by this time period.