Robert Bassingham has a family and a good cloth business. Catlin is a
widow with a young daughter and adult son. Catlin comes to Robert for
investment advice and soon her gentle nature makes her an indispensible
friend. When Robert’s wife becomes ill, Catlin is there to tend to
her. When she dies, Catlin is there as solace. But when Catlin and
Leonia, her daughter, move in, everything in Robert’s life changes and
nothing is as it seems. Has Robert made a terrifying mistake?
I must admit to already being an enormous fan of Karen Maitland’s delicious medieval witchcraft stories. Her characters are always very believable and even though they are often involved, as here, in sorcery and other magical goings on, these are always just on the edge of being fantastic and quite often leave one wondering how much the lines of truth and fantasy can be blurred, particularly at that in history when scientific explanations for things were less obvious and less available. Having expected to enjoy the novel, it is sometimes disappointing when it does not live up to expectations. I am very pleased to say that this one does so in spades.
If there is one negative aspect to the book, I didn’t really see why the story about the peasant’s revolt was relevant really. It appeared to me that the novel would have hung together nicely with no necessity for the boatmen characters. It was a fairly long novel and it almost did seem like two separate stories which only came together, fleetingly and to not much apparent purpose at the end. That said, I suppose I might well have been disappointed if the novel was shorter since I enjoyed reading it very much and did not want it to end.
If you are a fan of medieval mystery, you certainly can’t go wrong with Karen Maitland and I highly recommend “The Vanishing Witch”.