Review published on October 20, 2017.
London, 1758: Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary’s daughter, has found a position at St Mary Magdalene’s Refuge for Fallen Women. She enjoys the work and soon forms a close bond with her charges. The refuge is supported by a wealthy tobacco merchant, who regularly offers the girls steady work to aid their rehabilitation. However, when seven girls sent to his factory disappear, Beatrice is uneasy. Their would-be benefactor claims they were a coven of witches, beholden only to Satan and his demonic misdeeds. Beatrice is convinced something much darker than witchcraft is at play.
Beatrice uses the scientific knowledge that she learned from her father to investigate the strange happenings. She is a brave woman with a very enquiring mind, even if this means putting herself at risk. This character is very reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.
I enjoyed this book until I got half way through and then it became very predictable and undemanding. There are also quite a few historical inaccuracies.
Without spoiling the book for other readers, I began to question 1) would a woman who has had her son kidnapped move to another country to earn a living and 2) would a woman who has been raped and questions whether her daughter is a result of this put herself in a position where the same thing could happen?
I also have a dislike of books where sexual scenes are used unnecessarily. I understand that the women in the book were prostitutes, but I felt the explicit descriptions of the use of women for entertainment was unjustified. I also understand the book was set in a time when women were treated differently, but these scenes did not add anything to the story. Beatrice was a simple soul and would have been totally out of her depth in the situations she found herself in and this irritated me as a reader.
In conclusion, I felt the book had the makings of a good tale but missed the mark somewhat. The author almost tried too hard. Unfortunately, I will not be following Beatrice in her future adventures.
Dorothy Flaxman 2/1
The Coven by Graham Masterton
Head of Zeus 9781784976354 hbk Oct 2017
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