• Kim Wolkens

The Midwives by Duncan Ralston

Updated: May 7, 2020

My Rating - 4 out of 5 stars

Many thanks to Duncan Ralston for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Description: On tour with his latest book, true crime writer Martin Savage discovers one of his most-dangerous subjects has escaped. The so-called "Witch Hunter," a delusional murderer of women and their unborn children, holds a deadly grudge. He'll stop at nothing to get his revenge, and destroy everything Martin cares about. With nowhere to run, Martin and forensic psychologist Sheila Tanner flee to the town he left when he was a boy, after his mother was locked away in a psychiatric facility. A town hidden deep in his past, where no one would think to look for them. But things are not what they seem in Barrows Bay. The idyllic island holds terrible secrets. An ancient evil lived here long before the first Irish settlers crashed upon its shores in a coffin ship. An evil wearing the innocent faces of elderly midwives who've delivered every child in the Bay for two hundred and fifty years. Martin and Sheila think they’re safe in his childhood home. But Martin’s mother has plans for them. Plans that require sacrifice. And sacrifice requires blood. My Review: Barrows Bay is a fascinating little world that is not at all what it seems. Duncan did a great job of creating an atmosphere where something is off, but you can’t put your finger on it. A creepy little town where you know something bad is going to happen, and you know you can’t prepare for it. The book’s general atmosphere was enjoyable for me. The book’s plot is an intricate web of dark magic, serial killers and sinister secrets kept for generations. There are some grisly scenes in the book (which I like) but a lot of the horror seemed to be more psychological in the sense that the characters were pretty much being cornered and trapped by clever layers of danger around every turn. Not a lot of “jump scares” for me (which are my favorite), but there is still enough gore and danger to keep it interesting. I liked how interconnected everything was in the story. As I was thick in the twists and turns of the plot, I thought this must have been hella fun to outline (I’m not sure that it was - I am an outliner and I can only imagine what an outline would look like for this - in a good way). There were a few times near the beginning of the book where I’d wondered how a scene would fit in the big picture - not totally confused, but just wondering where it was headed - but each puzzle piece fell into place by the end. But not in a predictable way! This book is anything but predictable. I loved how a scene would end in the opposite way I’d anticipated. And I feel like the book ended without any plot holes, which could have been easy to do with the many layers to the plot. The book felt a little slow-paced at times, but not overly so. Looking back, I think that no word was wasted as every detail, conversation or event had a purpose in the grand scheme of things. The characters were consistent and believable, which is a big plus for me. Duncan created characters that were fun to hate (the midwives along with their unique dark powers) and other characters easy to root for (I grew to really liked Sheila, and loved Aunt Norma the whole time). Martin was kind of so-so for me at first. I don’t know if I just couldn’t relate to him, but at first, he got on my nerves. Then he goes home and is stripped down to his core, and I could appreciate him more. Visiting home after being gone for so long (or, rather, escaping from the place) can be intimidating. Reliving the past is not fun for a lot of people. I visit my home town often to see my family, but there are certain events or places in that town that are difficult for me to visit. Poor Martin had no choice but to return home for a spell, and we see plainly the struggle it is for him. That vulnerability made me like him more. I read the author’s note at the end. It was fascinating to hear about the writing process for this book. It’s inspiring to think that perhaps the first draft of my (unpublished) first novel could be dusted off and turned into something enjoyable to read. Overall, The Midwives is a great read and I plan on reading more books by Duncan Ralston! Amazon Link: Goodreads Link: Twitter: @userbits

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