Oh, the blessings of being an author with too much time on his hands. I can just picture Ian Rankin sitting in the house (farm? cottage?) he and his wife bought in rural Dordogne, having whizzed through the manuscript for yet another increasingly well-written John Rebus novel and – having left behind all other employment across the British Channel and neither inclined to carpentry nor gardening – feeling his mind growing restless, in need of occupation. Now, wouldn't you have started looking for another outlet for your creative energy had you been in his spot?
The result of the aforementioned process, which Rankin describes in the foreword to a 2000 British compilation uniting all three volumes, were a series of thrillers he wrote under the pseudonym Jack Harvey: Jack for his newborn son, Harvey for his wife's maiden name.
"Witch Hunt" marked the beginning of Jack Harvey's unfortunately way too short-lived career. It is the story of a female assassin – the title character – who is pursued by various agents of the British and French governments, as well as retired secret service man Dominic Elder, who has both a private and a professional bone to pick with her. The plot moves at Rankin's trademark fast pace, from Witch's arrival on Britain's South Coast (leaving her calling card by blowing up both boats she'd used to cross the Channel from France ... with their crews inside) to her first order of "real" business in Scotland, then to London, where Witch implements her plan's second phase and where her hunters have meanwhile formed a reluctant coalition, to France and Germany, for two rookie agents' unlicensed investigation of the assassin's past, and ultimately back to London, for Witch's final coup, amidst a major international conference no less.