A church fundraiser at a stately home goes horribly wrong.
The Rev. Tom Christmas, vicar of St. Nicholas Church, Thornford Regis, is understandably nervous about jumping out of a plane. But he’s pleased that the Leaping Lords are using their celebrity sky diving to help raise money to repair the church. Landing on the grounds of Eggescombe Park, he sprains an ankle, forcing him to stay over with his daughter, Miranda. The first indication of trouble comes while watching Hector, the tenth Earl of Fairhaven, and his wife’s brother, Oliver fforde-Beckett, seventh Marquess of Morborne, get into a midair wrestling match before both land safely. Oliver is a nasty customer whose relatives all dislike him, and Tom gets a bird’s eye view of his enmity not only with Hector, but also with his half sister Lucinda, his cousins Dominic and Jamie, Viscount Kirkbride, and his sleuthing wife, Jane. When Tom finds Oliver strangled in Eggescombe’s labyrinth, there is no shortage of suspects, all of them lying about their whereabouts on the night of the murder. Even Tom, who was being seduced by the stunning Lucinda, falls under suspicion, along with his former verger Jamie Kirkbride’s brother, a man with a secret who vanished after an earlier murder case (Twelve Drummers Drumming, 2011, etc.), emerges as a suspect. After the dowager countess’s artist in residence and lover is murdered, more motives emerge from Oliver’s past. Tom, helped by Jane, needs to figure out who is the guilty party.
A strong mystery reminiscent of P.D. James, with many well-developed characters, local color and a sensitive, intelligent investigator.