The Harlot’s Tale (A Midwife Mystery #2) by Sam Thomas
This is the sequel to the novel The Midwife’s Tale. I LOVED the first book. I thought it was absolutely fantastic and quickly devoured it. And I eagerly awaited the sequel…
This book takes place one year after the previous one. It is August of 1645, the civil war is over but not all is well. York is suffering tremendously from a horrible summer heat, one that threatens to destroy the crops and causes tempers to rise.
Meanwhile, the city’s council have decided that with one war completed, another is to be waged, the war of men’s souls. They have allowed all types of “ministers” into the city, of which are eager to whip the sinful into godly. One area they seem the most focused on? Prostitution.
One such group that has soldiered in to the area is Hezikiah Ward, his wife Deborah, daughter Silence, and son Praise God.
Lady Bridget continues with her midwifery, with Martha her trusted friend and deputy assisting. Will, however, has found much sorrow at the War’s end. With his brother Joseph, the war hero, returned; their father has once again ignored and mistreated Will, because of his club foot, and instead turned over quite a number of his affairs to Joseph. This extremely disheartened Will and causes him to drink to excess.
Including these, Joseph has become a crusader “for God”, as he has taken the duty of constable and delights in bringing in people to face charges of slander, prostitution, etc. Joseph is altogether rather unpleasant as his ruthlessness in battle has changed him to become even more ambitious and unempathetic.
One morning Bridget is awaken by her servant Hannah. Joseph has come for her as something has happened and she is needed right away by Edward.
Bridget awakens Martha, much to Joseph’s chagrin and they all take off to answer the summons. They come to a small apartment, one of which the prostitutes would use for business.
Edward brings Bridget in to look at the room and the bloodshed is enormous. Someone had killed and mutilated the bodies, rearranging the man and woman in a parody of copulation.
Edward’s mission for them is to question the prostitutes in town. As a midwife, Bridget has had her dealings with them before, and they most certainly would not trust Edward, Joseph, or any other constable or official.
Bridget and Martha go over the crime scene and find two pieces of papers with scripture on them, Numbers 25:8:
“And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.”
And Revelations 2:14
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Upon even further examination, the two were killed similar to first bible verse. And to their horror, they discover that the prostitute killed was done so by the cutting of the femoral artery, and afterwards her privities were slashed and disfigured.
Bridget and Martha are on the case again…or are they? As a pamphlet with similar themes is passed around the city, Joseph concludes the author is the murderer and has him arrested.
This doesn’t sit well with Bridget or Martha who find it strange that it would be so simple.
When the murderer claims his innocence and is released from prison, Bridget, Martha, and Will decide to continue searching for the truth.
On the case!
They see Helen Wright, owner of the tenement the dead bodies were found in, and while the exchange does not go as well as planned, they are given a lead to see Isabelle Dalton. She refers them to Barbara Rearsby, telling them she will send her their way if she finds her first.
As the three investigate more and more, it appears that in every spot the Wards and Joseph seem to be turning up again and again. Could one be a murderer?
Thoughts After Reading:
So I didn’t like this book as much as the first one. It wasn’t just the content of the hypocritical Christians, which have been done over and over again ; but it just seemed to be missing something.
I didn’t like the killing of Edward, although it was his own fault. For someone who reads the bible so much he clearly didn’t learn from the stories of Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, or Joseph & his 10 Brothers. Brotherly strife will not end well.
I also didn’t like how obviously evil Joseph was in this. From the first time he was introduced you knew he was the bad guy.
But let me say what a twist with the Wards. I never suspected the mother, props to you Sam, props to you.
I also didn’t care for the ending with Joseph getting everything and Will nothing.
Although I liked that he put Will & Martha together, glad he listened to my class’ suggestion.
Thank you, thank you!
For more Midwife Mysteries, go to The Midwife’s Tale
For more historical fiction mysteries, go to The Book of Madness and Cures
For more bible verses, go to Good, Clean, Murder
For more mystery reviews, go to Decked