A North Kerry house master has his throat slit.
St. Isidore’s, with all the secret doorways and hidden staircases proper to a haunted castle, houses seven boarding students in a dormitory tower. Almost caught by a shadowy figure as they return from a late-night barbecue (a St. Isidore’s rite of passage), the boys leap into their beds, where poor Bertrand is soon tangled in linens soaked in the blood of Mr. Tyson, their respected house master. Brought down from Dublin to investigate, 60-ish Supt. Denis Lennon and young Sgt. Molly Power learn that Bertrand has been shipped back to his parents in Paris and that the other six boys, the staff, headmaster Fisher and his wife Georgina have nothing illuminating to say. Then someone cuts the throat of Sir Neville, former owner of the property, and someone kidnaps Bertrand during a camping trip to Chartres. Thanks to Inspector Quilligan (Second Burial for a Black Prince, 2006, etc.) and the Sûreté, Bertrand is rescued, and a former student who threatened Tyson with legal action for sexual misconduct recants his story. When an incriminating letter turns up, the chase is on for the guilty party, who scrambles across rooftop gargoyles, culminating in several spectacular falls just in time for the Christmas holidays.
Nugent, a Benedictine monk and former Dublin lawyer, knows all the naughty and brave boyhood foibles and writes of them with charm and empathy. His plotting is a little too pat, but his substance and style carry the day.