The lugubrious Reverend Tuckworth (The Devil in Bellminster, 2002) returns, battling evil to rebuild his cathedral and save a man’s soul.
Reverend Tuckworth, dean of his beloved Bellminster Cathedral, is sent to London to call on wealthy philanthropist Hamlin Price and ask for a donation to restore the building. The supercilious Bellminster rector, Reverend Mortimer, insists on accompanying Tuckworth to London to “assist the dean in navigating the waters of Babylon.” Tuckworth navigates the waters without incident, but the dean is swamped by the austere and controlling Price at their first meeting. When Price offers the unprepossessing Tuckworth advice on making his pitch and invites him to dinner to try again, Tuckworth duly returns to Price’s mansion to find it full of fellow petitioners and the charming journalist and critic Leigh Hunt, who acts as the dean’s Virgil in this urban Inferno. The evening turns properly hellish when Tuckworth’s second appeal to Price is interrupted by the murder of Malcolm Wick, Price’s assistant. The Bow Street Runner hired by Price dismisses Tuckworth’s observations on the crime scene, but Hunt recognizes the dean’s talents and enlists him in an investigation that uncovers depravity indicating that the 21st century has nothing on the early-19th.
Hunt’s sparkle balances Tuckworth’s usual gloom, and the complexity of the villain compensates for some Anne Perryish longueurs in a generally Tuckworthy effort.