London, November, 1956.
DI Ted Stratton is tasked with investigating the murder of Jeremy Lloyd, a strange young man with a taste for esoteric religion. Stratton's enquiries lead him to Suffolk, where the mysterious Mr Roth has founded a Foundation for Spiritual Understanding.
Apparently Lloyd had believed himself marked out for great things. But at the Foundation, Stratton meets twelve-year-old Michael who is proclaimed as the next incarnation in a long line of spiritual leaders that stretches back to Christ and Buddha. He is rumoured amongst Roth's disciples to have been immaculately conceived, but the woman who is said to be his mother, and whose photograph was cherished by Lloyd, has disappeared.
When a woman's body is found in woods nearby, Stratton initially assumes he has found 'the mother', but the reality turns out to be far stranger and far more terrifying...
Set in England in 1956, Wilson's fourth period whodunit featuring Det. Insp. Ted Stratton (after 2010's A Capital Crime) masterfully blends a captivating puzzle with characters newcomers can instantly identify with. Stratton is assigned to the murder of Jeremy Lloyd, a member of the Foundation for Spiritual Understanding, a group that aimed to "discover and put into practice a precise system of knowledge about man's place in the universe and his spiritual evolution." Lloyd, who had begun working on a book about the foundation, was stabbed to death in his London rooms with a pair of scissors. The trail takes Stratton to the group's home in Sussex, where he finds its members convinced that one of their number, a preteen boy, is a "spiritually advanced being" destined to mature into a teacher like Jesus or Buddha. Wilson's moving portrayal of the inspector's efforts to come to terms with the loss of his wife and somehow carry on, as well as to relate to his two adult children, adds depth to an atmospheric and well-constructed mystery.