Further Reading: WITCH HUNT!

Early this morning, our President tweeted out a cryptic, two-word tweet in ALL CAPS.


What could it mean? I tried yelling “WITCH HUNT!” in the voices of Fred Schneider and Mark E. Smith, yet gained no further insight. Or, should I say, I GAINED NO FURTHER INSIGHT-AH!

Look, I’m pretty sure he’s talking about Russia, but are we sure the President knows what constitutes an actual witch hunt? He and many others are throwing the phrase around all willy-nilly, so now would be the perfect time for a refresher on good ole’ classic witch hunts of The Crucible variety. The following titles, linked to their excerpted Booklist reviews, provide updated primers on persecuting the misunderstood. While you’re reading, put on some Witch House—just not Crystal Castles, because that guy’s totally disgusting. And remember, there’s always room on the broom!


 The Fifth Petal, by Brunonia Barry

Salem police chief John Rafferty, husband of lace reader Towner Whitney, reaches back in time to solve the death of a teenage boy on Halloween night. When this case looks like it might tie into the “Goddess Murders,” a 1989 triple homicide of three women descended from accused Salem witches, he enlists the help of the daughter of one of the goddess victims. The main suspect, a disturbed woman who survived the gruesome murders of her three friends and is convinced she is inhabited by a banshee, believes she killed the boy with her scream.


 The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden

Now that her fellow villagers believe she’s a witch, Vasya knows she can’t stay with her family, so despite the dangers of traveling alone as a young woman, she loads up her pack and rides her beloved steed, Solovey, into the winter wilderness, south toward Moscow. Meanwhile, roving hordes of bandits are kidnapping young girls and burning villages to the ground all over Russia, and Vasya’s brother, Sasha, tries to advise the Grand Prince on how best to handle the growing threat.




 A Kind of Grief, by A. D. Scott

The sixth mystery in Scott’s Highland Gazette series goes far afield, both to the far north of Scotland and back to the remnants of witch-hunting.  When series heroine Joanne Rosss learns that a woman artist in the far north has been accused of, and tried for, witchcraft, Ross travels north to interview the woman and, later, reveals details about the woman’s cottage and paintings, which an unscrupulous art critic publicizes. The woman is found hanged in her cottage, and Ross, trying to assuage her guilt, investigates the woman’s life. A marvelous series of twists and turns follows.


The Witchfinder’s Sister, by Beth Underdown

Witch hunts didn’t start in Salem. Underdown builds upon documentation of trials instigated in 1645 England by Matthew Hopkins, an obsessed preacher’s son whose personal demons caused him to see evil in every woman. The narrator and main character is Hopkins’ sister, Alice, who recognizes that the accused, rather than causing their neighbors’ misfortunes, are simply mentally ill or poor.



About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the former Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist.

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