This second round of crime and detection in a homefront English village for DCI Thomas Lamb and a crew that now includes his daughter is mostly retro but with some disconcerting additions.
Though the German warplanes they’ve learned to fear haven’t menaced the villagers of Winstead recently, the nation is still very much at war. The greater part of the Tigue family’s farm has been chosen as the site of a prison for Italian POWs, and building continues apace. In the midst of these consequential preparations, no one expects Ruth Aisquith, one of the cooks on the building site, to turn up dead in the cemetery of St. Michael’s church with 50 pounds in her purse and a bullet hole in her back. Far from introducing violence to Winstead, however, the murder merely uncovers incongruous passions that have long seethed beneath the surface. Lawrence Tigue, the head of the parish civic council, has been hiding a dark secret for more than 20 years. Rev. Gerald Wimberly, the vicar of St. Stephen’s, is about to resume his affair with his domestic, Doris White, under a serious blackmail threat. Albert Clemmons, the Tigue farmhand suspected of molesting the twin sons of suicidal Claire O’Hare a generation ago, has come back home to die. The excavation of three more corpses at the construction site merely adds more fuel to a fire fanned by meddlesome spinster Flora Wheatley and precocious 12-year-old Lilly Martin, both of whom roam the area at night spying on their neighbors. Lamb (The Language of the Dead, 2015), who’s given his daughter, Vera, a job as his driver to keep her from being conscripted, can only wonder how long he can shield her from the homefront horrors likely to startle some readers agreeably and turn others away.
Kelly adds something perversely novel, and potentially divisive, to the decorous conventions of his golden-age models: abrupt shifts in point of view, sometimes within a single scene, between characters who seem right out of Agatha Christie and those with considerably darker doings on their minds.