The Trial of Jenny Sykes

Hebe Weenolsen, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (372p) ISBN 978-0-312-05173-0
Weenolsen ( The Forbidden Mountain ) here crafts a generally successful romance set in 17th-century England during the injudicious reign of James I. Doctor John Toller discovers the corpse of the illegimate newborn of Jenny Sykes, the vicar's daughter. Though the body shows no signs of violence, Jenny is legally guilty of concealment of birth; presumably she has acted to eliminate the unwanted child. However, Toller is convinced that the baby was stillborn and hopes to prove the point in order to save Jenny from the gallows. Her own father, in fact, has turned her in; Toller's investigation includes his efforts to understand the vindictive preacher. Much of the plot hinges on the lack of a witness to the birth and Jenny's own silence on its circumstances. At the same time as she weaves a complex legal and forensic structure, Weenolsen throws in more usual elements of unknown parentage, frustrated love, rogues and rascals, and royal skulduggery. Irritating anachronisms and florid language intrude periodically; and in general, Jenny is too perfect for real life. Toller, however, exerts a great charm, and in the end the tale belongs to him. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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