Fresh from a tour in South Africa to shape up Her Majesty’s Boer War intelligence, Lord Francis Powerscourt (Death of An Old Master, 2004, etc.) takes on a challenge concerning war conducted by the church militant.
John Eustace, Canon and Chancellor of the Cathedral of Compton, is looking forward to celebrating his church’s anniversary of a thousand years of Christian worship when he dies unexpectedly. His sister and putative heir Augusta Cockburn, finding his death suspicious, hires Lord Francis to investigate. The first thing Powerscourt learns is that Eustace happened to have been one of the wealthiest men in England. The second thing, not coincidentally, is that Eustace apparently left three conflicting wills, only one of which names the impoverished and shrewish Augusta as heir. While imbibing the rarefied atmosphere of the Anglican Cathedral like a liturgical connoisseur, especially enjoying several Evensongs performed by a terrified boys choir, Powerscourt and his wife, Lady Lucy, discover an alarming third fact: someone is trying to kill them. Presumably that same person actually succeeds in murdering another member of the Cathedral in a gruesome, frankly medieval style. Eventually, an epic conspiracy emerges from the sweet, murky atmosphere of incense and piety.
An oddly pleasant excursion that, in spite of subterranean ecclesiastical dangers, remains staunchly Anglican rather than Gothic.