30 July, 2013

Book Review: The Midwife's Tale

From Goodreads: 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.

Thoughts:  Like While We Watching Downton Abbey, this came from a review by Sheila over at Book Journey. I love a good historical mystery and this aims to please. As a history professor, it's no surprise that Sam Thomas is right on top of his research. His characters while fictional, are based on people he came across while looking at old wills. His main character Bridget Hodgson was a real midwife, twice widowed, who identified herself via her profession rather than her marital status - a rarity at the time. This alone is enough to imagine that the real Bridget was as strong and independent minded woman as the fictional one. Thomas acknowledges the restraints on women at the time, yet still manages to give Bridget a real backbone that she is not afraid to use! She is more than happy to trade on her importance in the town as a midwife and uses it with great success. The book also gives an insight into the reality of childbirth at the time - the fact it was dangerous and not something to be done without a lot of support from your female family and friends! 
The mystery unravels at a pace that keeps the reader interested and the discoveries and outcomes are believable. I'd like to think that Sam Thomas will write more mysteries involving Bridget Hodgson and her side kick Martha Hawkins. I know I'd read them!