Judgment Of The Witch by Robert McCammon is the first half of a two part novel called Speaks The Nightbird The second part, Evil Unveiled finishes what Judgment Of The Witch started.
I like the way Robert McCammon writes, and for the most part I think he has been an unappreciated author of the horror genre, taking a back seat to Stephen King and Dean Koontz. While McCammon hasn't been as prolific as the other two authors, he certainly can spin a yarn as good as, and sometimes (in my view) better than they do.
Judgment of the Witch begins with a Magistrate Isaac Woodward, and his clerk, Matthew Corbett, making the journey from Charles Town in the Carolinas, to Fount Royal to oversee a trial. Rachel Howarth has been accused of killing the town's clergyman and her husband after which she was reportedly seen cavorting with the Devil himself. This story takes place in the aftermath of the Salem Witch trials, and event which has left some people baffled about the existence of witches while also strengthening the beliefs of those firmly entrenched in witch lore. It will be up to Magistrate Woodward to decide the fate of Rachel Howarth -- should she hang, be burned at the stake, or be cleared of all charges. The last solution seems the least likely since the town of Fount Royal has been overrun with rumors and speculation all of which define Howarth as a witch.
Woodward and Corbett experience some very tense moments before ever reaching Fount Royal, a town started by Robert Bidwell who had huge plans for his town. Plans that included a shipping port as well as a town full of merchants and farmers. Because of all the talk about Rachel Howarth as well as illnesses and fires that have been attributed to her, people are leaving Fount Royal to escape whatever spell she might weave next. Robert Howarth sent for the Magistrate to save his town from ruination more than he did because he is concerned with devil worship. Woodward and Corbett are to be his salvation.
Judgment of the Witch ends just before the verdict on Rachel Howarth is announced, but it doesn't look good for Rachel. Woodward seems to be sufficiently impressed with the evidence against her to condemn her to death. Matthew, on the other hand, believes there's evil at work in Fount Royal all right, but it isn't coming from either Rachel or the King Of Darkness. For Matthew there's too many loose ends, too many questions left unanswered, and besides that, he seems to be Rachel's only hope of getting out of this mess alive.
Part 2 will, hopefully, answer these questions and reveal who is really behind the strange events of Fount Royal. I, for one, am definitely going to find out!