London, 1750: Beatrice Scarlet is the apothecary’s daughter. She can mix medicines and herbs to save the lives of her neighbours – but, try as she might, she can’t save the lives of her parents. An orphan at just sixteen, Beatrice marries a preacher and emigrates to America.
New Hampshire, 1756: In the farming community where Beatrice now lives, six pigs are found viciously slaughtered; slices of looking-glass embedded in their mouths. According to scripture, this is the work of Satan – but Beatrice Scarlet suspects the hands of men. As she closes in on the killer, she must act quickly to unmask him – or become the next victim herself…
I have mixed feelings about this book. I had no idea what to expect, with it being the first in a new Beatrice Scarlet series, which seems to be completely different to Graham Masterton’s other work.
It’s certainly an entertaining, very well-written historical mystery, but something about the storyline stopped me from getting completely lost in Beatrice’s world.
The characters are very well crafted, with Beatrice emerging as a fantastic new female protagonist. She’s smart, strong and independent and I really liked her throughout the novel. The characters around her are suitably idiotic or naive, particularly her husband Francis, though at heart he is a good person. The book makes you think about what a tricky era the late 18th century was to be a woman, or slightly different, in that society- people accused you of witchery at the drop of a hat or blamed you for everything that could possibly go wrong. I really despised some of the village people for their narrow minded views, and had to often remind myself that this is a novel set in the 18th century. It’s lucky there were level-headed members of the community as Beatrice to (attempt to) stop everyone sliding into complete hysteria!
The storyline is, overall, quite entertaining. I felt that it ebbed and flowed, with some chapters really draw me in and make me want to find out more, whilst other parts seem a little superfluous and uninteresting. At these points I felt my interest waning. However I love any element of a ‘whodunnit’ and there was enough of this, mixed with plenty of twists and turns, to keep me suitably intrigued!
Certain parts of the story made me feel so angry I could happily have stopped reading, but this is more of a testament to Graham Masterton’s writing. There are certainly parts which are very uncomfortable to read, but no more so than a particularly gritty crime novel, which I devour in droves! I think what makes some parts of this novel so shocking is the details behind some of the scenes; they really got to me.
Overall I did enjoy Scarlet Widow, feeling that it’s very well written with a fantastic female lead and a good dose of mystery. Though in my opinion some parts could be cut down, this is still a promising new series and well worth a read.