A dog and its master alert the police of a priestly body brought to their attention by Brunton’s near-biblical rains. Why, the coppers wonder, wasn't the Sacred Heart Church wondering where Father John was for the past week? Turns out he was supposed to be at one of the church's meditation centers to mull over his vocation—and his unsanctioned habit of accosting altar boys. Det. Insp. Peach, a lapsed Catholic with a bent for wry sarcasm usually flung pokerfaced at his superior, the mediahappy, workophobic Supt. Tommy Tucker, discovers three lads with unhappy memories of private moments with Father John, and a fourth, claiming to be gay, who insists the groping was mutual. All their parents, from the virulently antiCatholic dad to the overburdened single mum to the gaybashing dad and his overly protective wife to the religious parents whose faith remains staunch despite this trial, rank high as suspects—until a batch of kiddie-porn photos, hidden under Father John's Yfronts, leads Peach and his partner, Det. Sgt. Lucy Blake, to an M.P.’s vast collection of child erotica. Using insolence, stoicism, and a distrust of dogma, Peach solves Father John’s murder, in the process enjoying a naughty working stopover with his partner.
Churchgoers and church doubters are all given a say, but Gregson (To Kill a Wife, 1999, etc.) saves the liveliest discussions in this low-key, indolently plotted English villager for Peach, a bastion of insolence, as he twits the pompous Tucker.