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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mist Over Pendle by Robert Neil R.I.P.

Mist Over Pendle was an excellent choice for the R.I.P. Challenge.

Squire Roger Nowell is summoned to investigate a death and takes his new charge, niece Margery,  with him.  A complication arises when it turns out that three women reputed to be witches were involved in a confrontation with the dead man.  Richard Baldwin, a Puritan, believes strongly that the women are witches and must be punished accordingly.  Squire Nowell, however, requires proof and refuses to use torture to elicit a confession.

Because of political and religious alliances, most people have to be careful of what they say.  King James I believed in witches and had been persecuting them even before he became England's king, but there did exist some legal qualifications to be met.  Depending on one's beliefs these qualifications could be easily overcome; Roger Nowell insisted that the qualifications be met.  Catholics were also frequently persecuted and priests, when discovered, executed.  Punishments were often cruel and unjustified; the novel is set in turbulent times.

There are several other curious and threatening situations involving the Demdyke and Device women, and perhaps, a connection to the wife of a well-to-do local man.  Alice Nutter appears charming and good-hearted to most of her neighbors, but she chills Margery.

The first few pages are a bit slow, as they establish the Puritan outlook of so many individuals of the period, but after Margery joins her cousin Roger Nowell in Pendle, the story picks up immediately.

The characters are well-drawn, the relationships between the various characters are interesting, details of the time period are incorporated smoothly, and the dialogue is well done, with enough of the archaic to give atmosphere, yet not difficult to read.  The question of whether or not  real witches at work or simply evil-tempered, bitter old women, who are too vocal, continues to build throughout.  There is no doubt that the women are hateful and that they perhaps believe in their abilities to cause harm, but can they actually do so?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as fiction.  When I discovered that it was based on actual events, it gave me pause.  Taken strictly as fiction, Mist Over Pendle is a fine book and a great read for R.I.P.

The Rivendale Review - some lovely and haunting photographs of Pendle Hill and the surrounding countryside

Other reviews:  What Kate's Reading,

Fiction.  Supernatural/Mystery/Historical Fiction.  re-published 2011.  416 pages.

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