Jack Montfort grew up in the shadow of Glastonbury Tor in a town revered as the mythical burial place of King Arthur, and, according to New Age followers, a source of strong druid power. Montfort has little more than a passing interest in the history of the area - until he comes across an extraordinary chronicle almost a thousand years old . . . The unsettling way this record comes into his hands brings Montfort into contact with a disparate group of townspeople, including Nick Carlisle, a student of Glastonbury's myths; Faith Wills, a pregnant teenage runaway; and Winnie Catesby, the Anglican priest who is now Jack's lover. When a member of Jack's circle is attacked and left for dead, he appeals to his cousin, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, for help. For something terrible and bloody shattered Glastonbury Abbey's peace long ago - and now it is about to spark a violence that will reach forward into the present . . .
This seventh mystery featuring Scotland Yard detectives and lovers Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones, a finely nuanced novel replete with multilayered characters and a rare narrative patience, shows Crombie at the top of her form after the relatively weak Kissed a Sad Goodbye (1999). The spirit of Edmund, a Glastonbury monk, possesses a cousin of Duncan's, architect Jack Montfort, prompting him to write in scholarly medieval Latin of a missing relic and a chant hidden in the nearby abbey. Among those who form an alliance to decipher the meaning of Jack's writings are Faith, a pregnant teenager, and Garnet, a reclusive artist. Nick, who works at the local bookstore, is besotted with Faith and suspicious of the free-spirited Garnet. When Jack's girlfriend, Winnie, is hit by a car and left for dead and Garnet murdered, Jack invites Duncan and Gemma to Glastonbury to help investigate. The author covers a lot of ground, from Arthurian legend (the abbey may be Arthur and Guinevere's final resting place) to Jack's lineage, which stretches back to Edmund the monk. Who fathered Faith's child is a protracted mystery, while the unearthly beauty of Glastonbury Tor draws believers and skeptics alike, giving solace to troubled souls and stirring others to perform dark deeds. Throughout, the author sustains the sharp sense of a magical history bleeding into the present, even if the denouement is too traditional for all the preceding trappings.