Bombing runs by the Luftwaffe are only the most obvious sign of lethal conflict in journalist Kelly’s fine-grained first novel.
July 1940. Despite the proximity of a Spitfire factory, nobody thinks there’s anything in the Hampshire village of Quimby that the Führer would want to destroy. So despite nightly blackouts and air-raid sirens and the heartbreaking absence of so many young men, the locals have plenty of leisure to ask who thrust farmhand Will Blackwell’s pitchfork through his neck, carved a cross onto his forehead and impaled his scythe in his chest. And who beat pregnant infirmary volunteer Emily Fordham to death along the road to Lipscombe. And who treated farmer Michael Bradford, who’d complained that one of his chickens had been stolen and ritually slaughtered, to more of the same. DCI Thomas Lamb and DS David Wallace, both facing running battles in their private lives, wonder whether and how the crimes are related and what Peter Wilkins, the mute teenager who lives on Lord Jeffrey Pembroke’s estate, may know about the case—and may be trying to communicate through his beautifully executed, deeply disturbing drawings of insects. And they can’t help wondering too about the villagers’ 60-year history of summarily executing innocents thought to be witches. As Lamb and Wallace and resentful DI Harry Rivers probe beneath Quimby’s decorous surface for mystery upon mystery—some of them a lot harder to figure out than others—the Blitz is coming closer than they can imagine.
Perhaps too many subplots for Kelly to knit together with complete success but by no means too many to keep readers absorbed to the end.