FAMILIAR SPIRITS by Leonard Tourney


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Matthew Stock, constable in an Essex town circa 1600 (The Player's Boy is Dead, Low Treason), now confronts not only murder-mystery--but also his town's rising, ugly, Salem-like panic about the supposed proliferation of local witches. Ursula Tusser, servant-girl to tanner Thomas Crispin, is being executed for witchcraft as the novel begins. Her brother Andrew dies very soon thereafter, from a minor head-injury during a forbidden game of soccer. And then Crispin's frail brother-in-law, glover Malcolm Waite, is apparently frightened to death--by a glimpse of Ursula's ghost! The rioting townsfolk treat all this as evidence of continued witchcraft, bringing the two matron-sisters--meek Mrs. Waite and regal Mrs. Crispin--to sadistic trial. Meanwhile, however, Stock and his no-nonsense wife Joan (who has also seen the supposed Ursula apparition) try to remain a steadying town influence--while looking for a non-occult explanation of the fatal/ghostly goings-on. And, with the discovery of two more bodies, plus the airing of an old family secret, there's a fairly satisfying, only partly predictable solution. Modestly effective as mystery, occasionally gripping as witch-trial drama: the most engaging installment thus far in Tourney's unusual period series.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's