Book Review: THE MIDWIFE’S TALE by Sam Thomas

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Released: January 8, 2013
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½

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.

From the first line, THE MIDWIFE’S TALE grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. This absorbing historical mystery is set during the English Civil War when the city of York was under siege. The widow Bridget Hodgson is a well-respected and influential midwife, and though there is heaving fighting all around, her important work in the city continues.

Bridget receives the shocking news that her friend Esther Cooper has been accused of murdering her husband, and after a sham trial, she’s sentenced to be burned at the stake. Believing that Esther could not have done this, Bridget, along with her new maidservant Martha, sets out to prove her innocence. Bridget soon learns that despite her high station and influence, meddling in the affairs of powerful men is a very dangerous game.

THE MIDWIFE’S TALE is a beautifully written debut novel that I greatly enjoyed. Mr. Thomas created two strong and clever female characters in Bridget and Martha, and I loved watching their friendship develop. The secondary characters were well-drawn too, each one contributing to the intrigue of the story.

This book captured the political upheaval and historical details of daily life at that time. It also provided a fascinating look at midwifery in 17th century England. I was unaware of how far a midwife’s duties went and the laws she was subject to. So interesting!

I was very impressed with Mr. Thomas’ first book, and I’m looking forward to more.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.