A peaceful rural town becomes the murder capital of England.
Rev. Tom “Father” Christmas and his daughter Miranda have moved to bucolic Thornford Regis after the appalling and unsolved inner-city murder of his wife. His wife’s sister Julia, a music teacher, and her husband Alastair, a physician, already live in the area, whose biggest mystery to date has been the sudden disappearance of Tom’s predecessor. Tom and Miranda are settling in nicely when a nasty murder interrupts the festivities at the village fair. The teenaged daughter of well-known musician Colm Parry is found dead, her body hidden in a large Japanese drum. In his role as vicar, Tom finds himself privy to many confidences that reveal the sins his peaceful parish is hiding, stretching from theft and infidelity to murder. The suspects, varied and plentiful, range from an elderly retired army officer, whose stint in a Japanese prison camp left him with hate in his heart, to the church verger, who’s so far succeeded in hiding a truly dangerous secret from his past. Though he’s hampered in his search for the truth by the seal of confession, Tom still finds a way to unmask an unrepentant killer.
The first in a planned series of 12 is a promising departure from Benison’s Her Majesty Investigates series (Death at Windsor Castle, 1998, etc.). This English village mystery moves slowly while the many interesting characters are fleshed out, but it proceeds deftly to a grim conclusion.