I have always hated hearing people bleat on about how life is not fair, because in my mind I don’t understand what right they have to expect it to be so. However, throughout The Black Hours I kept being reminded of just how unfair life was for those suspected of witchcraft.
At the beginning of this story we meet Alice Pendle and her grandmother, Margaret (Maggie) Prentice, who provide midwifery services to the women of the Coggeshall as well as making up herbal remedies to help those who are sick. This way of life appears to be common practice at that time but when things go wrong there are those who, as some form of revenge, call in help from outside to rid the village of those suddenly perceived as witches.
Matthew Hopkins tackles his role as Witchfinder General with a passionate almost evangelical zeal and there is never even the faintest waver in his belief that he could in any way be wrong in what is he doing.
Following a successful hanging of five witches at Halstead he arrives in Coggeshall and sets to work immediately. I found him a vain and arrogant man, deluded in the way his went about his business. There was nothing fair about his treatment of Alice and Maggie, who were brutalised and battered into submission. He obtained ‘evidence’ by twisting people’s words and this supposed man of God tricked and lied his way into gaining confessions.
I could go on and on but I hope you get the picture that this was a real page-turner of a book for me. Fantastically well researched and superbly written I thoroughly enjoyed, if that can be the right word, what was at times a harrowing and heart-breaking story. Highly recommended to all lovers of historical fiction and anyone looking for a terrific read. Oh, and I should add, it has the most satisfying ending.