I just finished reading Dallas author Kathleen Kent’s second novel, The Wolves of Andover, released a few weeks ago. Published by Little, Brown and Company, I found this sophomore effort by Ms. Kent to be a fine prequel to The HERetic’s Daughter.
This fictionalized historical prequel is the story of how Martha Allen and Thomas Carrier met and married and also tells the story of Thomas Carrier’s past as executioner of Charles I. From The HERetic’s Daughter, we know that Martha Carrier was eventually executed for being a witch.
There was a lot to like about The Wolves of Andover. Martha Allen as a 20 year old (quite the old maid for the times) being sent to live with her pregnant cousin and her family was portrayed in Ms. Kent’s now becoming familiar writing style that I enjoy. Martha works hard for her room and board. Cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her cousin’s two children are part of her duties, besides helping with whatever else needs to be done on their farm. Her only diversions are the two men who also labor for her cousin’s husband, a merchant who is often on the road. One of these men is Thomas, whom we know Martha eventually marries and has children with before she is falsely accused of being a witch. Ms. Kent slowly unfolds the story of how Martha and Thomas grow closer as the time nears for the cousin to deliver.
Ms. Kent’s characterization of Martha as a strong, strident woman in a time when this is not appreciated is very discomforting knowing what fate has in store for her. I find myself rooting for her a lot because she seems to always manage to be in a dire situation because she is not demure and can be very bold.
Thomas’ story is also told as Martha keeps a diary and writes down what she learns about her future husband. Certain men had been sent to New England by Charles II to find and assassinate those who had a part in the execution of his father. Even in the 1600’s, a network of spies and counterspies existed. How they operated and how they protected each other was a nice juxtaposition against my current viewing of the British TV series MI-5.
Ms. Kent also provides readers with a look at how violent indeed the times were in the mid 1600’s in London, as well as in New England. Rats, knives, blood, scars, prostitution, Indian savagery, laborious field work, smallpox, childbirth, and wolves (literally and figuratively) were all part of Martha and Thomas’ world. I am still amazed that the real Thomas Carrier lived to be 109 years old.
I miss Ms. Kent’s writing from the perspective of one of Martha’s daughters, but I enjoyed how she would focus on Martha, then switch to the assassins, then switch to Thomas’ story. Ms. Kent introduced the reader to some strange, yet believable characters and events.