Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The Witch Tree by Karin Kaufman
Reviewed on September 13, 2011
Karin Kaufman’s suspenseful mystery, The Witch Tree, is, hands down, one of my favorite novels this year for a host of reasons, not the least of these being the outstanding writing.
The story opens with genealogist Anna Denning finding the body of one of her clients, to whose home she has gone in order to deliver a copy of her family tree. It’s apparent the woman has been murdered, and when the victim’s husband finds Anna in his house, he is convinced she’s the perpetrator of the crime. From there, the tension mounts, as Anna discovers that it was not the victim who requested her own family tree, but the owner of a new age occult store called ‘What Ye Will.’ The danger grows more deadly still when Anna’s research into why this self-proclaimed witch secretly employed her services makes her the woman’s number one enemy.
Author Karin Kaufman has crafted a fascinating mystery-suspense around the modern phenomenon of neo-paganism in The Witch Tree, her well-researched story dispelling some common myths about the “historical” roots of Wicca and its relationship to true witchcraft. However, though this theme is an essential aspect of the story, it is not the only one, and the author leaves it to the reader to make his or her own decision on the validity of neo-pagan claims. Just as vital to the story are the universal themes of love and loss and the human tendency to seek escape from a painful past – which can lead to the search for new gods or to an injured faith in the personal love of the more traditional one. All of the well-drawn characters in this novel are real people – from protagonist Anna Denning, still struggling with the grief of losing her husband only a few years into their marriage to the embittered antagonist who searches for self-identity in all the wrong places. This isn’t a book filled with good and evil stereotypes, but with human beings making choices as they struggle with very real challenges in life. The novel’s spirituality is a subtle one – there for those who believe a story lacks without it, as a person’s worldview is fundamental to his or her character, but not thrust on those who are only looking for an exciting mystery. For this reason, I found The Witch Tree to be simply a marvelously-written story that offered all the things I like best in a novel – tightly-woven plot, believable and sympathetic characters, terrific suspense and beautiful writing. I eagerly look forward to reading more works by this talented author.