Desperate to complete an acceptable dissertation before her funding runs out, Oxford researcher Therese Williams, who's already survived one harrowing brush with murder (The Poison Tree, 1997), gloms onto the unpublished letters of Catherine McCulloch, burned as a witch in 1698, as manna from heaven. Even three centuries later, though, Catherine's death smells more of sulfur and brimstone. Her descendant Magnus McCulloch offers Terry the hospitality of Babcock Castle only because he has his own agenda—one quite apart from Terry's attempt to claim Catherine as a lesbian persecuted for her sexual preferences. Meanwhile, gamekeeper John Hobbes has discovered the corpse of manipulative Donna Fairhead in the pit that neighboring farmer Laura Macpherson throws her dead pigs into. Several feet down, a lost letter of Catherine's lies waiting to be discovered in Donna's rucksack. As Terry, with the ambiguous help of Magnus McCulloch, his wealthy rival David Nicolaides, and a local coven of modern witches, digs deeper into the mystery of Catherine's execution, archeologist Iain Pullen is digging deeper into the death pit, and layer upon layer of dark secrets—rape, illegitimacy, genocide—open like a poisoned flower. A nosegay for historical-mystery fans, and strong stuff for readers hungry for mystery-mongering on a grand scale—assuming they won't be put off by Terry's vigorous pansexuality.
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