First book in a series taking place in 17th century New England. Catherine Williams is a 50-ish widow, a midwife, wealthy and respected who with the aid of a Pequot Indian she saves from execution investigates the death of an infant. The lead character is a strong woman, uncharacteristic for the Colonial times and the book appears historically correct in setting and tone.
First Line: The sloop Good Hope, its crowned lion figurehead pointing to the sea, rode the outgoing tide past the mouth of Newbury Bay toward deeper waters whose color changed from light blue near shore to an almost midnight black.
We first see wealthy widow Catherine Williams on board the Good Hope. It's New England in 1638. The Pequot War has ended, and all the Pequot leaders are ready for "justice" on deck. Since the agreement the Puritan leaders of Newbury made was with Catherine's deceased husband, they think they can conveniently forget about it. Catherine deems otherwise and manages to save the life of one of the leaders, Massaquoit, who will now live with her.
Catherine is a well-respected midwife and healer in the community. When a healthy baby she recently delivered dies, she is called upon to testify. The baby's mother is struck dumb with grief, and the father accuses both Catherine and his Irish Catholic maid of having had part in the infant's demise. Catherine believes the maid to be innocent, "guilty" only of being Catholic, and she begins to work to find the real reason for the baby's death.
Lewis uses setting and characterization to good effect in this first book in the series. Seventeenth- century New England comes to life, and Catherine and Massaquoit make a good team of investigators. The only weakness I found in the book was that it was glaringly obvious to me what had happened to the baby. That one flaw aside, I found The Dumb Shall Sing to be a strong start to the series, which to date only contains three books. I'll be looking for the other two, The Blind in Darkness and The Sea Hath Spoken. Strong female characters in this time period should not be passed by!
Interesting book. Gives you an idea of the lives of the early Puritans.