Maldon Books are thrilled to present Essex Witches: A.K. Blakemore and Syd Moore in conversation!

A.K. Blakemore is an established poet and translator, with two original poetry collections to her name. Her first novel, The Manningtree Witches, won the Desmond Elliot Prize 2021 and has received much critical acclaim.

England, 1643. Parliament is battling the King; the war between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers rages. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation, and the hot terror of damnation burns black in every shadow. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the wars began, the women are left to their own devices. At the margins of this diminished community are those who are barely tolerated by the affluent villagers - the old, the poor, the unmarried, the sharp-tongued. Rebecca West, daughter of the formidable Beldam West, fatherless and husbandless, chafes against the drudgery of her days, livened only by her infatuation with the clerk John Edes. But then newcomer Matthew Hopkins, a mysterious, pious figure dressed from head to toe in black, takes over The Thorn Inn and begins to ask questions about the women of the margins. When a child falls ill with a fever and starts to rave about covens and pacts, the questions take on a bladed edge. The Manningtree Witches plunges its readers into the fever and menace of the English witch trials, where suspicion, mistrust and betrayal ran amok as the power of men went unchecked and the integrity of women went undefended.

Syd Moore is the author of the much loved Essex Witch Museum Mysteries (Strange Magic, Strange Sight, Strange Fascination, Strange Tombs, Strange Tricks) and two previous mystery books, The Drowning Pool and Witch Hunt. Syd has worked in publishing, in television, is a charity ambassador, and currently works for an arts organisation, promoting arts and cultural events and developing literature programmes.​

Rosie Strange doesn't believe in ghosts or witches. Not at all. So it's no surprise that when she inherits the ramshackle Essex Witch Museum from her grandfather Septimus, her first thought is to sell it and run. Still, the museum exerts a curious pull. There's the eccentric academic who asks for her help in tracking down the bones of Ursula Cadence, a witch long since put to death. And there's curator Sam Stone, a man whom Rosie can't decide if he's tiresomely annoying or extremely captivating. Her plans to sell the museum might be delayed, just for a while.

Soon Rosie and Sam find themselves embroiled in a centuries-old mystery, involving demonic possession, a missing skeleton, and a local witch hunt in which the evils of the past come with their own real, and very present, danger. Inspired by the real-life epidemic of witch hunts that broke out in the village of St Osyth in sixteenth-century Essex.