KILL THE WITCH by Judith Cook
Headline Feb. 2000
ISBN: 0747261733 Hardback

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
Buy a US Copy || Buy a UK Copy

In this fourth outing for Dr Simon Forman it is the ominous year of 1592. This means that Christopher Marlowe is about to die and fellow playwright Robert Greene is doing so in the first few pages.  But we are soon whisked away from these familiar scenes to Pinner in nearby Middlesex where Simon's friend Dr Hugh Brett has his practice.  All is not bucolic pleasure though as they find morris dancers tormenting a supposed witch in the woods and these same woods are the haunt of villainous robbers.  However, a wedding takes place between two young lovers and the two doctors enjoy themselves but even amid the partying there are scenes of strife.  A short time later Simon has reason to come back to Pinner as the bride has been set upon in the woods and killed.  Her husband is lying ill after being attacked and of his handsome friend - who appears to be more than just a friend - there is no sign.  On top of all this town rabble-rousers are determined that there is to be a witch hunt and execution.  Surely all these troubles are the result of witchcraft from old Lizzie Saxton?

As in the other three novels Ms Cook delivers a fast-paced and tortuous story that goes along at a cracking pace.  It is even based on a true story and has the ring of authenticity about it but I have one criticism to make. Everybody behaves more or less like late 16th century folk apart from Dr Simon Forman who has far more of a modern air about him.  He too truly existed; knowing about his eventful life and with the checkered reputation he enjoyed other writers have portrayed him variously as a plausible but engaging rogue.  Here however he is bland and seems to provide a foil to the more barbarous ways of the other characters.  However this is an enjoyable novel and I for one will be reading the fifth book in the series.

I will be very surprised though - amazed in fact - if it does not involve the death of Marlowe more or less!

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved