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The Wild White Witch

Novel by Peter Stafford 1973.

An interesting but workmanlike novel that gains at least one rating point for its original setting, Jamaica in 1830 just before the abolition of slavery. We follow the rites-of-passage story of Jeremy Dalkeith, second son of the late Jonathan Dalkeith, Third Baron of Radlett. In response to a letter from a long lost uncle, Jeremy is dispatched to Jamaica to help manage and eventually inherit the twenty thousand acres of the Rosehall plantation. But Jeremy arrives only to find his uncle being buried and Melissa, his wife of five months, unaware of his existence. With nothing in Jamaica for him now, Jeremy prepares to return to Scotland, but Melissa, a beautiful yet sadistic Satanist, seduces him and keeps him under her spell. With the slaves about to rise up against their masters, can Jeremy escape her clutches and join the right side?

A historical novel, a rites-of-passage adventure yarn and a occult witchcraft tale all in one short package, this was not Stafford's first book and it shows. He has a control over his plot that comes with experience. But other than Jeremy, who we naturally focus on, most of the key characters are shallow and undefined. There could be much more in the way of background, the subplots could be far more developed and the numerous interesting minor characters could easily be fleshed out. All these flaws, however, are due to the low page count which in turn is due to the editorial policy followed by NEL in the early 1970s. Given the chance to expand his plot to its ideal length, Stafford could make this superb, but given the constraints he had to work with, he still does a pretty good job.


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