Face Down Under the Wych Elm

Kathy Lynn Emerson, Author
Kathy Lynn Emerson, Author Minotaur Books $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-26589-2
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
Mass Market Paperbound - 254 pages - 978-0-7582-0167-6
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This workmanlike historical of witchcraft, murder and greed, the fifth in the series (after Face Down Beneath the Eleanor Cross), begins slowly but ends with an exciting rush. Shortly after Elizabeth I returns her realm to Protestantism from Mary I's brief period of Catholicism, witches are blamed for strange happenings, especially deaths. One ""witch"" accused of murder is Constance Crane, who was once the mistress of Sir Robert Appleton, the late husband of our sleuthing heroine, Susanna, Lady Appleton. Constance writes Susanna for help, but the message goes astray. Not until Susanna arrives at Maidstone's Assizes with her lover and suitor, Nick Baldwin, does she learn that Constance is in trouble. Susanna immediately suspects the victim was poisoned, but the only way she can save Constance from hanging is to find the true killer. Aided by Nick and by her servant and companion, the faithful Jennet, Susanna uncovers a plot to gain vast wealth through a forgotten will and the canceled vow of a former nun. While Emerson creates an Elizabethan atmosphere by using archaic words (mazer, morphew, etc.) and describing plants and herbal remedies, her work isn't in the same league as that of such seasoned historical writers as Michael Jecks and Peter Tremayne. It's too easy to substitute drug trafficking for witchcraft, cell phones for messengers and cars for horses to imagine the story as a contemporary thriller. (Dec. 7)
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