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Beth Underdown Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Witchfinder's Sister (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Key In The Lock (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

The Manchester Anthology 2013(2013)Description / Buy at Amazon

Beth Underdown
Beth Underdown was born in 1987 in Rochdale. She studied at the University of York and then at the University of Manchester.

“The Witchfinder’s Sister” was a Richard and Judy bestseller and it won the HWA Goldsboro Crown Debut Award.

When Beth was 8 or 9, she read Shakespeare’s work. She believes she was trying to make some sort of point, and it was probably a classic instance of understanding individual words being a much different thing from understanding an entire text.

As a teenager, she loved the Brontes and Jane Austen. She read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle”, and Pat Barker’s “Regeneration” Trilogy at ages she was just about ready to read them, and each one of these novels had a huge impact on her.

In “The Witchfinder’s Sister”, Bridget was the first character to fully emerge. She came over from a different project Beth was working on, a couple chapters of a quite different seventeenth century novel which she had started writing and soon realized was not going anywhere. However Bridget was just too noisy to get left behind, and she soon felt right among the cast of this novel that she went on to write.

Alice arrived fairly early on as well. Bits and pieces of things that she felt or thought came to Beth almost like somebody else had said them. However after that there was a lot of work to do in learning about her and rounding her out.

Beth decided to tell the story from Alice’s perspective because she knew that she didn’t want to tell the story through Matthew himself, since she didn’t want readers to sympathize with him too much. And she didn’t think that to tell it all through him would leave nearly enough space for his victims. So she needed some sort of onlooker, yet one still close enough to him to know a lot about what was going on.

She knew that she wanted her protagonist to be a female, and reasonably likable, so that also ruled out telling the story through his wife (since Beth feels that having a nice wife would’ve made it just a little less plausible for Matthew to act like he did, and there’s no proof he was ever married). This just left a sister for him. And the sibling aspect interested her, too, because the idea that you can grow up with somebody, know just how to push their buttons, yet as an adult be a total stranger.

Alice also experiences a great deal of pain and loss, which was incredibly emotional for Beth to write about. It was heartbreaking to write about Alice losing her husband. A bit of this was cut out of the finished novel in order to create a tighter story, however everything that she writes about Joseph felt incredibly raw to do. And at the same time, she was interested in the ways that grief interacts with survival, she is devastated when he dies, yet at the same time she is afraid, and newly vulnerable.

There is another moment in the novel that was a challenge to write. When she was a bit younger, she had wanted to become a midwife, and even went as far as doing a bit of work experience, and some of what is in the novel was very much pulled from what she had learned at this time.

Beth did a ton of research to portray what it was like to live during the 17th century authentically. She looked at the politics and society of England at the time these witch hunts were happening, and at the events of the witch hunts themselves as well. However much of her research time went into researching the domestic sphere of the period, and what these parts of Suffolk and Essex specifically may have been like at this time.

“The Witchfinder’s Sister” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2017. 1645 in Essex, England. Alice Hopkins, with a heavy heart, returns to the small town that she was raised in. Without any prospects, with child, and widowed, she is forced to find refuge at the house of Matthew, her little brother. During the five years that she has been away, the boy that she once knew has become a man of wealth and influence, however more has changed than just his fortunes. Alice fears that even while the cruel burns of childhood accident mark his face still, something horrible scarred Matthew’s soul.

There’s this new darkness in the town, as well, as frightened whispers are stirring in the streets, and Alice’s blood runs cold with dread once she learns that Matthew is this ruthless hunter of suspected witches. Torn between devotion to her brother and horror at what he has become, Alice’s desperate to intervene, and is deathly afraid of all the consequences. However while Matthew’s reign of terror continues to spread, Alice has to choose between her soul and her safety.

Surrounded by suspicious and alone, she seeks out the fuel that fires her brother’s brutal mission and gets drawn into the Hopkins family’s past. She finds secrets nested inside of secrets, and at their heart, the poisonous truth. Just by putting her own liberty and life in peril is she able to defeat this darkest of evils, before more innocent women get forced to the gallows.

Inspired by the real life tale about the notorious “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, Beth’s thrilling debut blends harrowing storytelling with spellbinding history for a truly haunting reading experience.

“The Key in the Lock” is the second stand alone novel and was released in 2022. Ivy Boscawen, by day, is still mourning the loss of Tim, her son, during the Great War. However by night, she mourns another boy, one whose death which happened decades ago now still haunts her.

Ivy fears that there’s more to what happened all those years back; the fire at Polneath house, and the horrible events which came after. A truth that she must uncover, if she’s ever to be free.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Beth Underdown

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