THE TRIAL OF JENNY SYKES by Hebe Weenolsen

THE TRIAL OF JENNY SYKES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A bouncy 17th-century doctor saga from Weenolsen (The Forbidden Mountain, 1983, etc.), this one with a very 20th-century ""doing-the-rounds"" pace. The centerpiece clincher is based on an actual case in which a test for determining infanticide was first admitted to the courtroom--though most of the novel is concerned with the good works and busy business of a Puritan-era doctor in England ""whose terrain reaches from the mansions of the rich. . .to the hovels of the poor."" Dr. John Teller, adopted as a six-year-old waif by one saintly medico and then educated by another, is married to a madwoman who has killed their sons (she'll soon providentially die). At one point, John witnesses the arrest of delicate Jenny Sykes, accused of killing her illegitimate baby and burying the body. Her father, the hellfire vicar, who raised her in apparently complete solitude since her childhood, had turned Jenny in. While questions simmer--who was the baby's father (that's easy) or how did it happen (not so simple)?--Dr. John sets in motion the process to free Jenny, while attending to the daily medical grind: cleaning out the jail, rescuing fugitives from King James II's troops, witnessing a suicide for honor's sake, using a bit of pop-psych on a sad crone, snaring a child-abuser, healing and comforting the departing. Dr. John also sleuths here and there to discover his own history and true name. Doctor-book entertainment--anachronistic, packed to the raised eyebrows with incident, and good-natured fun.

Pub Date: Dec. 18th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's