Two weeks after the fete at St. Anne’s in the Norfolk village of Osterley, Father James lies dead in the rectory. Although Inspector Blivens thinks robbery was the motive—the fete proceeds are gone—Father James’s bishop, not so sure, asks Scotland Yard to pop around. The Yard sends off Ian Rutledge, recovering from a shoulder wound in the line of duty and still deviled by his memories of service in the Great War and the apparition of dead soldier Hamish MacLeod. Blivens quickly takes into custody Matthew Walsh, the fete’s strong man, but further inquiries lead Rutledge to Lord Sedgewick, the local squire; his sons Arthur and Edwin; Priscilla Connaught, the only villager who truly hated Father James; May Trent, a survivor of the Titanic, to whom Father James bequeathed a picture of Arthur’s late wife Virginia; and the squire’s former chauffeur, Herbert Baker, a parishioner of Mr. Sims at Holy Trinity, who nevertheless insisted on talking with Father James on his deathbed. There’ll be another homicide, a trek around the countryside, the revelation of an old murder, and endless cups of tea before Rutledge, exhausted and aching, painstakingly assigns blame for all three deaths, cranks up his automobile, and heads back to London with the ever-present Hamish haunting him from the back seat.
A spot-on recreation of the 1919 period, some wily use of the Titanic tragedy and villagers’ xenophobia, and the most persistent plaguing by a ghost since Macbeth. Todd fans (Legacy of the Dead, 2000, etc.) will queue up for this one.