The news that faithful old Canon Arthur Brydges-ffrench, the stuck-in-the-mud subdeacon of Malbury Cathedral, has been passed over for the deanship in favor of pushy, politically connected Londoner Stuart Latimer sets two novels--well, one and a half--in motion. The first is a disarming comedy of clerical manners in which the cathedral's four canons, their wives, the caddish cathedral architect, the predatory head of the Friends of the Cathedral, the holders of the franchises for the cathedral refectory and gift shop, and the retired schoolmistress still hoping to snare the subdeacon into marriage all scheme endlessly to get the better of the new dean, or, failing that, to get on his good side or bail out. It's so amusing to watch the touchingly venial machinations of the good-hearted Malbury Close regulars that it's a shame when a fatal poisoning--no, it's not the well-hated new dean after all--kicks off the second novel, a whodunit that's shorter, less persuasive, even more amateurish, than the first, as if Charles (The Snares of Death, 1993, etc.) had suddenly remembered that her regular sleuths, artist Lucy Kingsley (whose father is the least devious of the canons) and her lover, solicitor David Middleton-Brown, were waiting with the meter running and nothing to do. About what you'd expect if Trollope decided that what the Barsetshire novels needed to juice them up was a tincture of illicit (albeit well-bred) passion and homicide.