Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt is a 1993 crime novel by Ian Rankin, originally written under the pseudonym Jack Harvey. It was his first novel written under this name. The book has recently been reissued under the “Ian Rankin” brand name.

Here is a plot summary, based on an entry on Wikipedia :

A fishing boat sinks in the English Channel in the middle of the night, and the evidence points to murder. Ex-MI5 agent Dominic Elder comes out of retirement to help investigate the explosion of the boat, as it appears that his long-time obsession, a female assassin known as Witch, may be responsible. Using the boat to get to England from France, Witch left a subtle trail of clues to announce her arrival and to warn off Elder. But that is the least of MI5 and Special Branch’s worries, if Elder’s well-honed intuition is correct. He has seen her work before and knows her to be a resourceful enemy, who always seems a step ahead of the authorities. With an imminent summit of world leaders to be held in London, Witch’s target seems obvious. Young Michael Barclay’s thoroughness leads him onto Witch’s trail, with the help of his liaison in the French police, Dominique. Apart from her language help and guidance around Paris, Michael is sexually attracted to her. The team of detectives and MI5 agents, and the terrorist, play cat-and-mouse with each other in Scotland, England, France, and even briefly visit a former associate of Witch in prison in Germany.

It is interesting to note that the MI5 section chief who is Dominic’s superior is a woman, Joyce Parry, with whom Dominic Elder has had a romantic liaison in the past.

This is an audiobook read entirely by Nicola who provides not only male and female voices, but also voices with English, French and German accents. Here is what The Spectator magazine had to say about Nicola’s performance (reviewed published on 9th March 2002) :

Nicola Walker – it was a brave but inspired choice to have a female narrator – succeeds in evoking and differentiating all the major characters. She represents a female Bob Hoskins or John McVicar, gravely understating, often noir; and is equally enticing as the plodding Special Branch officer, Doyle, or the functional bureaucrat, Joyce Parry. but perhaps her greatest performance is the French secret service officer, Dominique : steely, sassy and sexy … Witch Hunt builds to a gripping finale with the femme fatale, the witch of the title, tracked down for an early-hours game of cat and mouse around the ancient city of York. Walker holds the listener transfixed throughout.

Nicola’s version is the abridged one and it runs for 7 hours 2 minutes. There is an unabridged version read by Peter Capaldi which runs for 11 hours 43 minutes.

Update : 14 December 2011

@Beathhigh tweeted today, “Julian ‘Downton Abbey’ Fellowes was once approached by a film company to pen a script for my female assassin thriller ‘Witch Hunt’…” @Beathhigh is the Twitter account name for Ian Rankin. Wouldn’t it be great if they did make a film of this book and gave one of the leads to Nicola!

(Thanks to Lisa who brought this tweet to our attention. 🙂 )

Availability on Audible

Nicola’s abridged version of Witch Hunt is available to buy from

Audible UK

Audible US

Whilst you’re on Audible’s website, why not consider taking on one of their listening plans. It will mean that you get this title for less than if you just bought it on its own.

Read the Book

from Amazon UK

From Amazon US

In paperback

As a Kindle eBook