We Three is LM (Laina) West’s third novel about the East Anglian witchcraft persecutions. As with her previous books, This Fearful Thing and The Unnamed, her new book is woven around a real life story and based on extensive research of historical documents.
East Anglia in 1645 was the centre of one of the most brutal persecutions in England, led by Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General, and aided by his colleague John Stearne. Over a two-year period the two men set off a chain of events which reverberate down through history to this day. Hundreds of people, mainly women, were accused, tried and often hanged as suspected witches, and the cruelty of their accusers knew no bounds. Their bodies were searched for so-called witches marks before being ‘watched’, sat without sleep, often in a rat infested dungeon, for hours if not days.
The two men travelled up from Essex, separating when they reached Suffolk, to spread a trail of destruction throughout the eastern counties. They moved from interviewing suspects themselves and providing guidance to towns and villages to being hired to search out witches. It is said that in their short reign, they sent more people to the gallows than had been executed in the previous 160 years.
We Three is based around the confessions of three women from Dunwich. It opens in 1615. The King’s Men are performing a tale of witchcraft and ambition, murder and death. Firm friends Priscilla, Elizabeth and Aubrey, fourteen years old, watch in excitement and horror as the story unfolds. That day never leaves them.
Thirty years later they are seized, accused of witchcraft by the same man who will stop at nothing to destroy them. As Dunwich crumbles into the sea, and with their friendship damaged by betrayal and lies, they face the hangman’s noose.
As with her previous books, LM West tells the story sensitively and sympathetically from the point of view of the women accused. Although the three books have a similar subject matter, they are not linked and can be read in any order.