A monumentally ambitious fourth outing for the vicar of Ledwardine church and Deliverance Consultant—the term contemporary Anglicans use for exorcist—to the Diocese of Hereford. When contractor Gomer Parry’s nephew and partner Nev dies in a suspicious fire, Parry himself burns with righteous indignation against the man he’s convinced is the killer. And after DI Francis Bliss not only learns that the accused man’s girlfriend, good-time girl Lynsey Davies, has been killed but extracts a full, if hysterically addled, confession from the suspect, who allows himself to be goaded into suicide, the stunned villagers of Underhowle are ready to close the case. But the spectacular self-immolation is only the beginning of a more unsettling mystery that links these crimes to the career of Frederick West, the most notorious real-life mass murderer in modern English history—a mystery whose riddles reach out in the most unexpected directions. Should Rev. Merrily Watkins (The Cure of Souls, not reviewed, etc.) brave public outrage to preside over the killer’s Christian burial? What anonymous donor left £80,000 in her church so that she wouldn’t have to accept a well-paying but perhaps lethal electrical transmitter within the spire? And what part are angels, ghosts, and devils playing in what looks like a most earthbound series of crimes?
Merrily links criminal, psychological, moral, sociological, spiritual, and supernatural realms to dig deeper into evildoing just when most fictional sleuths would be calling it quits.