Scarlet Widow by Graham Masterton

Beatrice Scarlet, #1

First in a new series from Graham Masterton, starring the apothecary's daughter, Beatrice Scarlet

London, 1750: Beatrice Scarlet is the apothecary's daughter. She can mix medicines and herbs to save the lives of her neighbours - but, try as she might, she can't save the lives of her parents. An orphan at just sixteen, Beatrice marries a preacher and emigrates to America.

New Hampshire, 1756: In the farming community where Beatrice now lives, six pigs are found viciously slaughtered; slices of looking-glass embedded in their mouths. According to scripture, this is the work of Satan - but Beatrice Scarlet suspects the hands of men. As she closes in on the killer, she must act quickly to unmask him - or become the next victim herself...

TRIGGER WARNING: Be warned this isn't for the faint of heart. I don't generally do spoilers, but trigger warnings for those readers wanting to know in advance: There is a violent and detailed rape. Sad deaths, including children and animals.

Graham Masterton has written a lot of books, and I've read a lot of them. I've enjoyed all I've been fortunate to get my hands on - except this one.

So what went wrong this time? A few things.

The writing style seemed different, heavy on simplicity, strong on the innocence of the young heroine. It was downright depressing from chapter one. You don't need the horror tag when you just pile on countless tragedies that make my emotions range from anger, to a heavy chest, to tension, to depression. Really, this poor woman gets thrown to the wolves with her bleak life. That's not to say there weren't some interesting parts, but they were kind of watered down later as the misery washed the wonder away.

Usually what I've enjoyed by the author has been twisted and creepy horror. This was a different concept. A mystery of sorts, historical setting, told through first person point of view. A series. The synopsis is intriguing since anything with witchy trials and salem references can be enjoyable, especially if done by an author who I generally find as talented as Masterton.

Told through stages of life - from a young child with an ailing mother, then a struggling father and struggling teen coping. Forward right to a controlling aunt in a bitter situation for a bit, then a jump into adulthood struggle where the heroine - finally finding happiness - meets the destroyer of it when he comes to town. Beatrice isn't a bad character, but keeping with the historical times, to loan realism we have to keep her dialogue a little tame and potential sass dialed back. Her father and husband were both sweethearts, the child a little doll. The aunt wasn't "nice", but her character was well fleshed out. Villains were villains through and through. So I can't complain in that area at least.

For the mystery portion, that was the winning part of the book. It took its sweet time coming on, however, and mixed in with the situation that irritated me, I didn't enjoy it much thanks to that. Justice is done in the end, but so much is lost that you don't feel much about the resolution. I think by the time the last chapters arrived, I was so numbed from tragedy that I was just tired.

I think I'll stick to his horror stuff. At least with those books, I go in expecting darkness, and I find creepy scenes awaiting me around the corner.



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