German bombers are arriving daily, seeking to decimate England. But in a rural Hampshire village, things have remained fairly quiet—until an elderly loner, Will Blackwell, is brutally murdered. The method of his killing bears the hallmarks of the traditional vanquishing of a witch, and indeed, local legend claims that as a boy, Blackwell encountered a ghostly black dog sent from the devil, who struck a bargain for Blackwell’s soul.Not long after the murder, a young woman who is carrying the illegitimate child of a fighter pilot also is violently killed; then a local drunkard ends up in an abandoned mill with the back of his head bashed in. As the Germans continue their relentless attack, Detective Inspector Thomas Lamb rushes to solve the crimes. Do the killer’s motivations lie in the murky regions of the occult?
Charles Todd fans will welcome Kelly's first novel, a superior whodunit set in WWII England. In the summer of 1940, with the Luftwaffe making frequent bombing raids, Det. Chief Insp. Thomas Lamb is naturally worried about his 18-year-old daughter, Vera, who has recently begun working in the south-coast village of Quimby as an air raid warden. Meanwhile, Lamb must investigate the murder of William Blackwell, an elderly farmhand, who was run through the neck with his own pitchfork with a scythe buried in his chest. A milkmaid was dispatched in the same savage manner in 1882, and rumor has it that the dead man was a witch, based on a supposed encounter in 1880 between a 10-year-old Blackwell and a demonic black dog, a story recounted in a book of local legend. Lamb, who's haunted by his experiences in WWI, is a complex lead meriting further outings.