Lovesey, a recipient of the British Crime Writers' Lifetime Achievement award, proves his mettle here with a deliciously wicked village mystery centering on Otis Joy, the rector of St. Bartholomew's Church in Foxford, Wiltshire, and focusing particularly on his second career: unrepentant murderer. He simply must arrange to have a sexton disappear, his young French wife perish from anaphylactic shock, the Bishop plunge into the quarry, the church treasurer swallow poison, and a flirtatious widow drown. If he hadn't, any or all of them might have revealed his other secret: embezzling church funds to finance the fancy yacht, secreted in a marina two hours off, which he sails every Tuesday, his day off from church duties. But trouble looms when Rachel Jansen, a parishioner infatuated with the charismatic rector, poisons her husband with the idea of becoming the rector's second wife (although he hasn't asked). There's gossip in the pub and gossip at the church fête, till finally Joy's Scrabble partner, the village constable, agrees to poke around. Too late: Sinful hands are already steering the rector's extravagant yacht toward a new congregation in another hemisphere.
Gleefully demonic, offsetting church homilies with garden poisons, piety with avarice, and a proper tea with a libido-unleashing tumbler of Scotch.