DEATH KNELL by Nicholas Wilde


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During a visit from London to his grandfather's vicarage in a Norfolk village, Tim and his friend Jamie, both 14, are among those who discover the body of wealthy old Mr. Jefford in the crypt of an abandoned church. The police are baffled by the crime, which features some apparent impossibilities (the keys are in the crypt, whose door is blocked from the inside by a huge stone, though the door has been locked from the outside). A legend about a devil that, long ago, emerged from the crypt to kill at the tolling of the church bell also complicates the villagers' responses to the event. A year later, the mystery still unsolved, the boys return for another visit. Offering to help the various suspects by shoveling the still-falling snow, they ferret out enough motives, clues, and suspicious behavior--pieced together with their recollections of the fatal day and some extraordinarily skillful deduction--to keep readers guessing to the end. In a dramatic finale, the two confront the murderer who, in the classic tradition, listens avidly while Jamie puts the whole puzzle in order, deftly using every piece. Wilde (Into the Dark, 1990) fans his story's inherent suspense with transparent but effective devices--lowering weather, references to the supernatural, inexplicable sensations of fear, faces that suddenly go white, etc. His plotting is intricate but economical, with a good array of suspects. The boys are lightly but adequately sketched; their compassion for the murderer is a nice touch. Solid entertainment.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
Page count: 214pp
Publisher: Henry Holt