The Midwife’s Tale (A Midwife Mystery #1) by Sam Thomas
Thoughts Before Reading:
I actually read this for a history class…
I know, sweet right! It was a history of the novel class so we read novels and historical fiction novels throughout time.
It was a fantastic class. Anyways, the professor knew the author of this book, so not only did we get to read a mystery, my favorite, but we were able to skype him and ask him questions about the book and make suggestions. Such as two characters getting together.
Lady Bridget Hodgson, lives in 17th century. She married her true love, but when he died; she remarried a wealthy man, got a title, and also an okay marriage as her husband believed himself to be smarter than he is.
She has had a lot of tragedy in her life as her son was a stillborn baby, her daughter became ill and died; and her husband followed them.
When she lost her daughter, her mother-in-law taught her midwifery; something she continues to do as a widow; earning additional money, respect, and power in her city of York.
So currently in time the country is facing a Civil War between Parliament and the King. York is in the middle of it all, with Parliament laying siege to the city.
However, a young maid, Martha, has managed to slip through the lines. She has come from Lady Bridget’s deceased cousin to see about a job. Lady Bridget hires her and finds her to be extremely gifted in dealing with purchases from stalls to assisting her clients giving birth.
However, Lady Bridget’s life changes when two mysteries are thrust upon her. The first being the killing of a young baby. Lady Bridget setting out to discover which mother or father did the dead.
And the more shocking crime, her friend Esther Cooper has been arrested for the murder of her husband.
Lady Bridget is shocked that they would ever think the demure Esther capable of killing. She sets off to prove her innocence, aided by Martha who contain skills needed in this service that go beyond simple maidly duties.
As they set out for the truth they find themselves setting out on a path riddled with danger: from soldiers, the Parliament’s artillery, a villain from Martha’s past, Lady Bridget’s nemesis, etc.
Thoughts After Reading:
Lately there has been an increase in historical fiction mysteries, especially those in which the main character accidentally finds themselves involved a case and uses their amateur sleuthing skills to solve the puzzle that was presented to them. Unlike many authors who’s reasoning’s for how their character manages to maneuver through all parts of society, Sam Thomas is able to realistically portray his character as a successful private investigator through the combination of her station and employment.
As Lady Bridget Hodgson is a member of nobility, it gives her certain protections that others would not have; namely it is harder to kill her, she has to be treated with respect by those below her (and on the same plane), she cannot be as easily ignored or thrust aside, etc. These benefits enable her to not only approach those in the upper class regarding her investigation, but also protect her when she ventures into the lower regions.
Her midwifery duties also give her credibility as an investigator as she is able to question and gossip with women of all classes; which all her to be privy to all types of scandalous (and helpful) information that would not be shared with just anyone. Information gathered this way creates a realistic pathway for the author to express key clues without having his main character appear too all knowing or unbelievable. This occupation also grants Lady Hodgson the talent to read people; therefore being a more effective detective as her midwifery enables her to distinguish a lie from the truth.
“Esther was telling the truth.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Unmarried mothers will often lie to me about the father of their bastards, so I know a lie when I hear one.” pg. 96
Being a midwife does not only grant her many friends, but also give her the leverage she needs to blackmail people into granting her requests. Her knowledge of extra-marital affairs, allows her to get her way.
However, even though these qualities allow Lady Hodgson to be able to be an extremely effective detective; Thomas does not gloss over the fact that being a woman in 17th Century England, even a noblewoman, does have limitations. As most women were not educated the same way as men; Thomas uses Lady Hodgson’s first marriage as way that she could be able to live on her own and take care of her accounts. Her first husband had taught her how to run the land and how to treat the tenants; allowing her to be able to understand and know how to take care of his and her second’s husband’s land after they both pass on. However, she is still treated with disdain by many because she is a woman trying to do more than her sex allows. This opinion is expressed by many characters throughout the novel; all seeing her as weak, fragile, simple, or meddlesome.
The mystery was also extremely well written as it has quite a few twists and turns, leading you on onto you come to the conclusion.
The characters were all written extremely well that are all enjoyable; whether you love them or love to hate them.
I loved it and give it five out of five stars!
For more historical fiction, go to A Change of Fortune
For more murdered husbands, go to A is for Alibi