THE LATIMER MERCY by Robert Richardson


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In the cathedral town of Vercaster (modeled on St. Albans), everyone is looking forward to the weeklong Arts Festival--which is to feature a one-woman show by starry London actress Diana Porter, with a script by visiting playwright Augustus Maltravers (irreverent brother-in-law of the Vercaster Cathedral's canon). But the festival is soon marred by two seemingly unrelated mysteries: the theft of a rare 16th-century bible from the cathedral (the ""Latimer Mercy""); and then Diana's bizarre disappearance--soon after her triumph in that provocative monodrama (with feminist reinterpretations of scriptural tales). Are the two puzzles connected? So believes amateur detective Augustus--especially after pieces of dear Diana's corpse begin popping up in disturbing ecclesiastical settings. Meanwhile, however, both the police and Augustus (an impetuous sleuth) must concentrate on the prime suspects in Diana's murder: an obsessive, disturbed fan who has also disappeared; and a nasty ex-lover. So it's only after these two rather obvious red herrings are dispensed with that Augustus zeroes in on the real culprit--an easy-to-spot but not-very-convincing psycho. Richardson's debut plot, then, is little more than a pale, predictable recycling of mystery elements in the Savers/Marsh tradition. But Augustus is an agreeable hero, witty without being hyperactive or precious; the sketches of clerical/show-biz personalities are gently shrewd; and devotees of old-fashioned English murder-with-atmosphere will find this a brisk, tidily engaging variation on familiar themes.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's