The Glassmaker’s Wife
Barnes & Noble
Published by: Dzanc Books
Release Date: December 6, 2022
In August of 1844, a man named Leonard Reed takes violently ill at his home near Heathsville, Illinois, and four days later he is dead.
The cause? Arsenic poisoning.
The suspect? His wife, Betsey.
The chief witnesses against her? A hired girl, Eveline Deal, and the local apothecary, James Logan. The evidence? Eveline claims she saw Betsey put a pinch of white powder in Leonard’s coffee.
Betsey Reed, a woman who dabbles in herbal healing, is known about town as a witch. As the gossip and the circumstantial evidence mount, Betsey finds herself under the shadow of a trial—and a noose.
A historical crime inspired by the true story of Betsey Reed, for fans of The Trial of Lizzie Borden and The Good Sister, Lee Martin’s latest weaves a tale of a pinch of white powder, a scorched paper, a community hungry for a villain, and a young girl’s first taste of revenge—but above all, of the contradictions and imperfections of the human heart.
“As in all great fiction, The Glassmaker’s Wife satisfies every keen reader’s desire: to see, at last, through a glass, darkly. When the novel’s finely spun tension is shattered, readers come face to face with that most perfect of endings, one that is at once both surprising and inevitable.”
~ Angel Khoury, author of Between Tides
Eveline wore her best dress to the inquest. When it came her time to speak, she looked Miss Betsey straight in the eye, wishing she could say, Who’s ugly now?
But what she really said was, “I saw her go to the cupboard and take a paper from between the tea plates. I saw her put some white powder in the Mister’s coffee. Then later I found the scrap of paper in the dooryard. Someone had tried to burn it.”
Did she think Mrs. Reed had tried to dispose of that paper by lighting it afire?
“I can’t say,” said Eveline. “I really can’t. I’ve told you all I know.”
“Wasn’t nothing but salt,” Betsey said when she was allowed to speak in her defense. “Mr. Reed always took a pinch of salt in his coffee.”
But Mr. Logan’s testimony focused on the scorched paper Eveline had found in the dooryard. “That paper? Yes, that’s the sort of paper I wrap arsenic in. Do I remember Betsey Reed coming in to buy any? I do not, but I can tell you this: I feel certain that she did, perhaps under the cover of some sort of disguise. When I left the cabin that night, I knew there wasn’t much I could do for the poor man. To my mind, he died from arsenic poisoning.”
After a short deliberation, the coroner and his jury decided there was enough evidence to arrest Betsey Reed and charge her with murder.
“All because of her,” Betsey said when the verdict was made known. She pointed at Eveline.
“All because of what she said.”
“I told the truth,” said Eveline, but her voice was barely a whisper, and in the midst of all the stir and clamor no one took note of it. They’d heard her say what they’d wanted her to say, and nothing much mattered after that.
Except to Eveline, who lay that night, trembling in her bed, unaccustomed to her word counting for so much. She’d told what she’d seen. Now she wished she could take back her words. She wished she’d never come forward. I’m just a girl, she wanted to tell the jury. I’m just a moon calf. Ask Miss Betsey if I’m not.
She lay awake long into the night, wishing that she could go to her and tell her she forgave her for calling her an ugly girl, wishing she could tell her she loved her still.