The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE STRANGE DEATH OF MISTRESS COFFIN centers on an unsolved murder which took place in 1648 in Robinson’s Fall, on the southern boundary between colonial New Hampshire and Maine. When the primary suspect, Jared Higgins, disappears, leaving behind his wife, Goody Higgins, and five young children, Magistrate Jonathan Cole invites Richard Browne from England to relocate to New England and investigate this brutal murder. Browne learns that Jared Higgins, presumed dead by some, is living among the Indians, remarried and with a child. Higgins claims that he did not commit the murder. In the meantime, Browne befriends Goody Higgins, but having sworn secrecy concerning Jared’s whereabouts, he does not tell Goody that her husband is alive.

When Mr. Coffin gives his deceased wife’s journal to Browne to help with the case, Coffin himself mysteriously disappears; later it is discovered that he too relocated, remarried, and eventually died. Browne’s investigations reveal that Coffin had hired two men to murder Jared Higgins after he was told by Goody Higgins that her husband was having an affair with his wife. The plot failed, however, when the men raped and murdered Mistress Coffin and Jared Higgins escaped. Browne eventually marries Goody Higgins, who blamed herself for the murder when she learned she “wrongly” informed Mr. Coffin that his wife was cheating.

THE STRANGE DEATH OF MISTRESS COFFIN is a murder mystery lightly mixed with soft romance. Robert J. Begiebing presents vivid scenarios that capture the spirit of seventeenth century colonial New England, describing the Puritans’ daily routines and morals. This intriguing mystery is filled with several twists of surprises and suspense.