The eagerly anticipated latest installment in Ruth Rendell's bestselling Detective Chief Inspector Wexford series.
Sarah Hussain was not popular with many people in the community of Kingsmarkham. She was born of mixed parentage - a white Irishwoman and an immigrant Indian Hindu. She was also the Reverend of St Peter's Church.
But it comes as a profound shock to everyone when she is found strangled in the Vicarage.
A garrulous cleaner, Maxine, also shared by the Wexfords, discovers the body. In his comparatively recent retirement, the former Detective Chief Inspector is devoting much time to reading, and is deep into Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He has little patience with Maxine's prattle.
But when his old friend Mike Burden asks if he might like to assist on this case as Crime Solutions Adviser (unpaid), Wexford is obliged to pay more precise attention to all available information.
The old instincts have not been blunted by a life where he and Dora divide their time between London and Kingsmarkham. Wexford retains a relish for solving puzzles and a curiosity about people which is invaluable in detective work.
For all his experience and sophistication, Burden tends to jump to conclusions. But he is wise enough to listen to the man whose office he inherited, and whose experience makes him a most formidable ally.
In Rendell s absorbing 24th Inspector Wexford novel (after 2011 s The Vault), the Kingsmarkham, England, sleuth tries to find out who strangled the Rev. Sarah Hussain in the vicarage of St. Peter s Church, and why. The fact that Hussain was biracial and a single mother had galvanized bigots near and far, who resented her very existence as well as her modernizing the liturgy. When Wexford s grandson, Robin, begins dating Sarah s daughter, Clarissa, Robin gets entangled in identifying Clarissa s sperm-donor father further upping the ante for Wexford. Is a white power group responsible for killing Sarah, or had a personal relationship curdled into fury? Suspects abound: the shiftless depressive Jeremy Legg; the Anglican traditionalist Dennis Cuthbert; and Gerald Watson, a stuffy old flame of the murdered woman. Wexford s strengths as a man and as a detective are his calmness and resilience. A serene atheist, he looks to the conscience of humanity and Britain s flawed but well-intended laws to glean whatever justice can exist today.