A murder mystery set in an English village full of eccentrics gets a fresh and original slant from the ever inventive Barnard. (Sheer Tortune, etc.) The village is Hexton, the narrator Helen Kitterege, whose husband Marcus is town veterinarian and a church warden. Hexton's ladies run the town ex-officio, wear hats, serve watercress sandwiches and are deeply concerned about the imminent arrival of new vicar Father Battersby, very High Church and celibate. Meanwhile, Helen is slightly distanced from the village women, a quiet rebel with a sardonic eye, until Marcus is found dead at the annual fete, stabbed with a hatpin. Instead of retiring to her house to mourn, she sets out to find his murderer. Calling on self-appointed morals--guardian Mary Morse, the late vicar's sour widow Thyaza Primp, newcomer Gwen Nielson and others, Helen finds everyone has secrets to guard--but the motive, when it emerges, proves both trivial and compelling. A neat surprise ends another winner from an author with style, humor, vitality and class--long may he flourish!