A brilliant clergyman and occasional sleuth is again tempted away from the monastic life, this time to probe the suspicious death of a paralyzed young mother.
A feature article in the Sunday Times brings unwanted publicity to Father Anselm, formerly a distinguished barrister, now a monk ensconced at Larkwood’s Priory. An anonymous letter that soon follows requests help in the case of Jennifer Henderson, a young woman who died under mysterious circumstances two years ago, some time after having become paralyzed from a fall. The letter writer accuses Jennifer's husband, philosopher and radio personality Peter Henderson, of killing her. Anselm begins to investigate, albeit surreptitiously. His contact in the police department is former colleague Mitch Robson, whose righteousness and aggressive manner make a nice contrast to Anselm’s empathetic equanimity. Diary excerpts from the Hendersons’ young son, Timothy, which appear intermittently throughout and give readers access to some information Anselm hasn’t learned, seem to implicate his father as well. Also in the mix is Jennifer’s devoted friend (perhaps her lover) Vincent Cooper, who behaves very oddly in the face of Anselm’s questions. Indeed, everyone around Jennifer seems to be haunted by her death, including her grief-stricken military father, Michael, and her adoring uncle, Dr. Nigel Goodwin. Though the circumstances surrounding Jennifer’s death are discovered in stages, Anselm’s probe focuses more on the disturbed family dynamics that led up to it and the layers of grief and loss that followed.
The fifth outing for Brodrick’s clerical hero (The Day of the Lie, 2012, etc.) strikes a nice balance between sleuthing and character-driven suspense.