The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane approaches a familiar period in history--the Salem witch trials--with a different slant: What if there really were witches in Salem?
Howe has clearly done a lot of research to write this book, and the way it's presented (through the perspective of a history grad student about to embark on her dissertation) may grate on the nerves of some readers, but for this reader (who's been missing grad school), it's geekishly satisfying.
Unfortunately, the story affords no surprises. Everything is heavily foreshadowed, the characters are all stock and the writing occasionally feels a little graceless; some scenes are filler, unoriginal or poorly executed (especially compared to the writing Howe proves elsewhere in the story she is capable of offering).
I do appreciate the ease with which Howe's story flows between the historical periods and the modern (1991) setting. And did I mention that I really admire not only the amount of research Howe must have done, but also that a research process is incorporated into the story? (I am such a geek.)
Bottom line: I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I'd anticipated.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane will be available June 2009.