Kirkus Star


Email this review


Haymon's impressive debut, Death and the Pregnant Virgin (1980), was unusually rich in character and atmosphere but a trifle deficient in puzzle and pacing. Now, however, Haymon has streamlined her narrative and devised a zinging finale too--making this one of the year's finest mystery achievements. Again, then, as in Death and the Pregnant Virgin, religion and history provide the resonant background for murder: the site here is the great cathedral of Anglebury in Norfolk, where a local archaeologist/TV-personality is supervising the excavation of the tomb of Little St. Ulf--legendary 12th-century victim of ritual murder by Jews. (The supposed murder triggered a savage pogrom.) And when the mutilated body of present-day choirboy Arthur Cossey is found in the tomb--a precise copy of the legendary murder!--smart, sensitive Inspector Ben Jurnet fears that some of the same repercussions will ensue: after all, there are a couple of fascist-type organizations in the neighborhood. So Jurnet and his feisty Welsh sergeant investigate with unusual vigor (especially since Jurnet himself, eager to marry lover Miriam, has been thinking of converting to Judaism); the sleuthing starts with child-molestation and anti-Semitism, then leads far afield (to drug traffic and adultery); and the climax is surprising but oddly, chillingly convincing. Shrewdly psychological, elegantly layered, yet unflagging in suspense and wit: a quiet triumph--and strong evidence that, if Robert Barnard has become the heir apparent to the lighter-toned British traditional mystery, Haymon is the most promising new talent in the deeper, darker tradition of Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's