In Katherine Howe's new mystery "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane," Harvard graduate student Connie is working on her American History Phd dissertation when she gets roped into renovating and selling her grandmother's old house in Marblehead, Massachusetts. When she finds the name "Deliverance Dane" scrawled on a piece of paper tucked into an old Bible in the house, Connie looks the name up and finds that Deliverance was one of her ancestors, a woman who was involved in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Connie first begins researching Deliverance's story thinking it will lead her to a great primary source for her dissertation. But soon she becomes entangled in a 300-year-old mystery involving witchcraft, strange family secrets, and a mysterious "Physick Book" that once belonged to Deliverance Dane.
When Connie meets Sam, a fellow history fanatic who works repairing church steeples, the two join forces to search for Deliverance Dane's "Physick Book." It is no easy task to try and track where the book has gone for the past three hundred years. Connie and Sam must dig through numerous historial collections throughout Salem, Mass, trying to track the book's previous owners, and in the process, Connie discovers some surprising details about her family's past.
But what begins as a simple search for a historical book becomes a race against time when it becomes apparent that someone is working against Connie--and it's putting Sam's life in jeopardy.
"The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" is unlike any other witchcraft story I've read because of its ties to history, and actual facts behind the Salem Witch Trials. It may be a witch-themed book, but the focus is not really on spells and magical abilities. Instead, as the book progresses, the reader finds more and more about Connie's family history, and what life was like for women in Salem in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Not only is "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" an intriguing mystery, but it really brings the victims of the witch trials to life, describing the emotions of them and their families as their friends and neighbors turned on them.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The author is really a very talented writer. My only criticism is that the story lacks action in places, and the plotline could have used a little more variation. You'll find this book very interesting if you're into history and mysteries, but if you're looking for a more traditional witchcraft/fantasy tale, this may not be the book for you.
I award this book 4 out of 5 daggers.