cover image Hour of the Witch

Hour of the Witch

Chris Bohjalian. Doubleday, $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-385-54243-2

Mary Deerfield, the indomitable, 24-year-old protagonist of this twisty thriller set in 17th-century Boston from bestseller Bohjalian (The Red Lotus), has been married for five years to Thomas, a well-to-do widower almost twice her age, whose abusiveness has escalated with her failure to become pregnant. In bed with her brutish, frequently drunk husband, Mary fantasizes about how different life might be with someone like seductive bachelor Henry Simmons, whom she meets when he pulls her out of the way of an oxcart that threatens to run her down. Gossip soon grows about the pair, at the same time Mary discovers items buried in her garden associated with witchcraft. Then Thomas’s most violent assault yet propels Mary to petition for divorce, a step she knows will bring dangerous scrutiny from a populace primed to spy the devil’s hand everywhere. Chapter-prefacing snippets from testimony at Mary’s future court appearances fan suspense, but also make her painful journey there seem at times excruciatingly slow. With its exploration of themes including domestic abuse, toxic masculinity, and mass hysteria, the novel feels like anything but a period piece. Bohjalian fans and newcomers alike will be satisfied. [em]Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary. (May) [/em]