Book Reviews

The Coven (Beatrice Scarlet) by Graham Masterton

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List Price: £7.99


Paperback: 416 Pages.

Published: 08 February 2018 by Head of Zeus

Edition: Reprint

ISBN: 1784976377

EAN: 9781784976378

London, 1758:

Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary's daughter, has found a position at St Mary Magdalene's Refuge for fallen women. She enjoys the work and soon forms a close bond with her charges.

The refuge is supported by a wealthy tobacco merchant, who regularly offers the girls steady work to aid their rehabilitation. But when seven girls sent to his factory disappear, Beatrice is uneasy.

Their would-be benefactor claims they were a coven of witches, beholden only to Satan and his demonic misdeeds. But Beatrice is convinced something much darker than witchcraft is at play...


3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Debra Found

Little Empathy with the Characters

Beatrice is alone in the New World with the exception of her small daughter, Florence. She returns to London to work for a missionary society which cares for "fallen women". She stumbles across a den of iniquity where nothing is quite what it seems.

I felt that this book started quite well if slowly. The setting was reasonable but I was envisioning a later period in history than 1758. Beatrice frequently travels around London on foot and in cabs alone and meets with a young man alone in the evenings. Would a Missionary society really allow a young woman to do this all without a chaperone? I do wonder. I was also slightly puzzled by the police Inspector at Bow Street - surely 1758 is a bit early for that?

Beatrice is sometimes a very clever woman. Her knowledge of chemistry and apothecary remedies is exceptional. In fact I do wonder if this is knowledge is more suited to a later period in history. For example the information concerning arsenic poisoning in wallpaper was more in fitting with the Victorian age - though I may be wrong. Beatrice has learned a great deal from her Father and has an excellent remedy for every ailment from head lice to chest infections. In fact it seemed that every person she met mentioned a small ailment & she immediately piped up that she had a remedy of her Father's which would solve it. This started to get a little farcical!

At other times Beatrice is immensley dim. A wealthy factory owner comes to choose girls for his factory. He personally chooses them & only chooses the very prettiest. When Beatrice visits them a few days later they are all suddenly unwell & can't be visited. took her a while to work that one out yet she can manage complicated chemical tests to prove poisoning. It just didn't quite work for me.

There are some brutal & explicit rape scenes in this book. I mention these particularly as someone searching for a historical novel may not be aware that the author writes gruesome horror stories. These rape scenes may come as quite a surprise to the unwary reader. Personally I felt they were a bit over the top and unnecessary.

I didn't particularly like any of the characters in this book. Some of them are quite cardboard and lacking in personality & others are just unpleasant. To be fair the subject matter isn't that nice.

It wasn't until I had completed this book that I discovered that it was the second in the series. This would  explain some events and references that made little sense to me. Perhaps I would have understood Beatrice's character a little more had I read this book first.

The actual concept of this book is reasonable & the story did make basic sense leaving aside some questionable history. However I struggled to relate to or like any of the characters and despite the terrible situations I felt little empathy. The people just didn't come alive. I didn't particularly enjoy the brutal rape scenes but accept that this type of scene is part and parcel of the author's writing. I don't think I shall be looking out for any further historical work by this author.

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.

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