The Coven (Beatrice Scarlet) (Paperback) 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

Review by Debra Found

3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars (3 from a possible 5)

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. Um..........it 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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