The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe

I told Colleen at Foreign Circus Library that I love books about research, and she ever so kindly sent it to me in the post!  Lucky me, I read it over the weekend.  Poor Connie has just got through with her qualifying exams – sounds like a nightmare, that lot, I don’t think I was sufficiently sympathetic to my dear friend tim when she was having quals (sorry tim!) – and her scatty New Age mother demands she go fix up her (Connie’s) late grandmother’s old house and get it sold.  While living at the house, Connie finds a little key inside a Bible, and a name, Deliverance Dane; and this leads to all kinds of mad research into the Salem witch trials.

Although I enjoyed The Physick Book a lot, there were some smallish things that I thought could have been improved.  I was not in love with the Boston accent approximations – I know these things are difficult to do, so I give her mostly a break on that.  I thought the book telegraphed punches a bit, with Connie failing to pick up clues that even I caught, even though she was supposed to be doing a dissertation on colonial America and I, um, took American history when I was in high school.

Throughout the book we flash back to Deliverance Dane and her daughter and her daughter’s daughter and this was really excellent – I wanted more of it!  The sections from the past felt much more immediate and real than the bits with Connie doing her researching and having her rather unbelievable fling with Sam.  Deliverance and her daughter Mercy, in particular, made me get a bit sniffly since, of course, it being the Salem Witch trials, Deliverance gets hanged. Oh well.

Final verdict: This book sounded like one of Barbara Michaels’ books, and it really was a lot like that.  Only less polished.  Barbara Michaels but less polished.  I’d love to see Katherine Howe write an entire book set Back in the Day.  I bet that would be really good, although I don’t tend to love books set in colonial America.  I would read one if Katherine Howe wrote it.  I believe in you, Katherine Howe!

Other thoughts:

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