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Bennett (The Catastrophist) pens an evocative, somber account of a man facing a crisis of spirit and conscience in early 17th-century England, when "men of property were gripped by fears" and decried the poor, the immigrant and the unemployed as spreaders of crime and sin. Upstanding town coroner and governor John Brigge, a man of "the old faith" who "lived with signs and saints," is called to investigate the death of a baby allegedly murdered by the child's own mother, Katherine Shay, a proud Irish Catholic woman. She denies not only the crime but the right of her Puritan inquisitors to try her. Brigge, struck by the young woman's refusal to quietly accept her fate, begins to believe that she may indeed be innocent. But because the townspeople have already decided she is guilty—and have sniffed about Bennett the secret airs of a papist—he understands that his own fate will hinge on whether or not he goes along with those who claim to work for the benefit of God, even as they serve their own selfish ends. Marvelously told, with memorable characters, powerful dialogue and description, and subtly drawn parallels to contemporary issues, this is one of the more rewarding historical novels to come along in some time.
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“A thrillingly satisfying piece of work.”—Telegraph (UK)
“Searingly powerful.”—Independent (UK)
“Plunging us into a somber world of uncertainty, fears and portents, Bennett succeeds in making the vanished past vivid—and in making us wonder if there are not perhaps some parallels between that time and our own.”—Los Angeles Times