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The Escape

Novel by James Darke (England) 1984.

Taking a break from his intensive quest of vengeance against notorious witchfinder Robert Monk, John Ferris finds himself in north Wales looking for employment. He teams up with a gypsy, Joseph Petulengro, who is on his way to the funeral of a king of the travelling folk. But also present are the family of Benjamin Mendoza, last of three brothers who work for Monk (Ferris having killed the other two) and they have sworn to kill him. And, though Ferris is delaying his search for Monk, the witchfinder is still sparing no effort to find him.

By far the best of the first half of The Witches series (started by The Prisoner): the first two were poor, and the third markedly better, but book four is superb. There is a far greater coherence here, due to the choice of a single main location, instead of having the action take place seemingly at random around the countryside. The background of a major gypsy funeral, complete with associated customs and traditions, is fascinating, and the prose simply flows. As Laurence James is wildly inconsistent under his own name, he is similarly inconsistent under his many pseudonyms. Also of note to genre fans is the inclusion of a character from the Black Hill area near Clun who goes by the name of Guido Smythe. No prizes for guessing where prolific author and personal friend of Laurence James, Guy N Smith lives!


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