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Face Down Under the Wych Elm Hardcover – November, 2000

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Kathy Lynn Emerson's series of Elizabethan mysteries featuring Susanna, Lady Appleton, just keeps getting better. In this, her fifth outing, the widowed Lady Appleton is enjoying the attentions of a new suitor when she learns that Constance Crane, her late husband's mistress, and Crane's elderly cousin, a former nun, have been jailed for the heinous crime of "bewitching" two men to death. Showing more nobility than good sense, perhaps, Susannah puts the ill- will of the past behind her and vows to help the two imprisoned gentlewomen, who will be executed if convicted.

It's soon clear to Susanna, herself an herbalist of some renown, that the victims died of poison, not witchcraft. With the help of her housekeeper, she solves the crime and names the villain. No big surprises are in store for the careful reader, but clues and solutions aren't the important thing about these clever, well-researched novels. Emerson has a deft hand with the details of the customs and costumes of the Elizabethan era, and brings history to life with a light touch. Lady Appleton gets more interesting as she gets older, and her autonomy and audacity will win the reader's heart. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

This workmanlike historical of witchcraft, murder and greed, the fifth in the series (after Face Down Beneath the Eleanor Cross), begins slowly but ends with an exciting rush. Shortly after Elizabeth I returns her realm to Protestantism from Mary I's brief period of Catholicism, witches are blamed for strange happenings, especially deaths. One "witch" accused of murder is Constance Crane, who was once the mistress of Sir Robert Appleton, the late husband of our sleuthing heroine, Susanna, Lady Appleton. Constance writes Susanna for help, but the message goes astray. Not until Susanna arrives at Maidstone's Assizes with her lover and suitor, Nick Baldwin, does she learn that Constance is in trouble. Susanna immediately suspects the victim was poisoned, but the only way she can save Constance from hanging is to find the true killer. Aided by Nick and by her servant and companion, the faithful Jennet, Susanna uncovers a plot to gain vast wealth through a forgotten will and the canceled vow of a former nun. While Emerson creates an Elizabethan atmosphere by using archaic words (mazer, morphew, etc.) and describing plants and herbal remedies, her work isn't in the same league as that of such seasoned historical writers as Michael Jecks and Peter Tremayne. It's too easy to substitute drug trafficking for witchcraft, cell phones for messengers and cars for horses to imagine the story as a contemporary thriller. (Dec. 7)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (November 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312265891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312265892
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,536,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kathy Lynn Emerson is the author of over fifty works of fiction and nonfiction written under the names Kathy Lynn Emerson, Kaitlyn Dunnett, Kate Emerson, and Kaitlyn Gorton. Many of them reflect her interest in life in sixteenth-century England and she maintains a series of mini-biographies online as "A Who's Who of Tudor Women." She won the Agatha award for mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries: The Art and Adventure of Sleuthing Through the Past. Currently she writes the Liss MacCrimmon Scottish-American Heritage Mystery series (Ho-Ho-Homicide, 2014) as Kaitlyn Dunnett and as Kathy Lynn Emerson writes the Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe, 2015), featuring Elizabethan gentlewoman, sleuth, and spy Rosamond Jaffrey. For more information, visit Kathy's webpages at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
With her husband now dead, Susanna Lady Appleton of Leigh Abbey in Kent controls all the lands that her deceased spouse used to manage. Susanna is wealthy and has more freedom than most women even under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Susanna refuses to marry because she is sick of being under the control of a male as she has all her life.

Instead, Susannah agrees to become the mistress of her neighbor Nick Baldwin. She accompanies him when he travels to Meidstrom where he has a case pending before the summer Assizes. When they arrive in town, Susanna is shocked to learn that her husband's former mistress Constance Crane and her relative are being held on charges of witchcraft. Knowing the woman is not a witch and feeling some sort of weird obligation, Susanna sets out to prove the innocence of the two women. In doing so, individuals who want the two women burned at the stake begin to look closely at Susanna's behavior.

The fifth installment of the Face Down series provides a very lucid picture of upper class life in Elizabethan England. Kathy Lynn Emerson does a splendid job of showing the power of superstition even as an age of enlightenment spreads across the land. The mystery is also well written but FACE DOWN UNDER THE WYTCH ELM belongs to Susanna, a woman rejecting the place society demands she accept.

Harriet Klausner
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By tregatt on November 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In my opinion, this is one of the best historical mystery series currently in publication. Susanna, Lady Appleton, is an inspiring and wonderful addition to the ranks of female investigators -- she's independent, brave and possesses a strong sense of justice. And Kathy Lynn Emerson has created a believable set of circumstances that allows for Susanna to maintain her independence and to conduct her affairs as she sees fit in Elizabethan England. Susanna is a widow and rich in her own right and (most importantly) possesses no male relatives who could try to curb and restrain her. This allows her to pretty much do as she pleases within reason. And when it is brought to her attention that one of her husband's former lovers, Constance Crane is now facing charges of murder and witchcraft, Susanna, who had in a previous adventure been similarly charged, feels that she must to do something to help the woman.
From her previous experience, she knows that women are especially vulnerable to such charges because the burden of proof lies with the accused rather than with the accuser and that such accusations are quite frequently grounded in superstitious beliefs and fantasies, not on fact and tangible evidence. Not believing in witchcraft herself, Susanna realises that she must look into the deaths more closely in order to prove Constance and her cousin Lucy innocent. And she is determined to prove that the Crane cousins have been wrongfully accused. But as she starts her investigation, Susanna comes to realise that there is something quite sinister afoot, and that if her suspicions are correct, then two innocent women are being framed for some more nefarious reason than fear and superstition.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kenri A. Mugleston on December 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I have read by Ms. Emerson and it was no great shakes. There are other authors of historical mysteries that are much more descriptive of daily life and produce a much richer overall mystery (see my other reviews).
This novel has Susanna,Lady Appleton as detective extraordinaire. To me it seemed that Lady Appleton's serving girl Jennet did a better job of sleuthing than did Lady Appleton.
Susanna, in all her piety, has to help her dead husband's mistress Constance and Constance's cousin Lucy clear their names of witchcraft before they go to the gallows. This seems pretty strange to me. Susanna also has to outmaneuver her boyfriend's sly and hateful mother.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca in Chicago on July 30, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Finding this series was a great find. Enjoyable and a quick read
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