While renovating the derelict twelfth-century chapel attached to their new
house in rural Worcestershire in 1972, Grace and Benjamin Hothersall uncover
three skeletons, which have clearly been the victims of murder. When news of
this reaches the newspapers, a series of anonymous letters and
telephone-calls begins at the Hothersall residence. Clearly the murders are
of not just historical interest, since someone very much alive seems
determined to prevent further disclosures. Inspector Wickfield finds himself
involved in a complex and baffling investigation, which embraces local
witchcraft, a student of the cabala, abduction, a boy’s curse, a hidden
will, a stranger in Cornwall, death in a railway carriage – and a Latin
textbook of 1563! It nearly proves too much for him, but light dawns
eventually and leads to a tense trial which brings the case to a close.
The narrative almost fails to see the light of day, because the inspector
objects to its style and instructs Mr Falconer to destroy the typescript.
Fortunately for us, Mr Falconer has more sense than the inspector. As
always, the reader is given as much information as the detectives and is
challenged to spot the crucial clue in the labyrinth, as Wickfield must.
Julius Falconer’s sure touch ensures another page-turner for the discerning
reader, in which intelligent stimulation vies with sheer entertainment for
pride of place.
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