The second Turnham Malpas novel from bestselling author Rebecca Shaw.
The village is bedevilled by talk, and all is not as it seems in the village of Turnham Malpas...
Does pushy newcomer Venetia have her eye on Peter, the handsome rector? Is Jeremy, her husband, really making a success of the new health club? And why does Willie's new love set a vicious tongue wagging? In the Royal Oak, the usual banter has turned to bitter wrangling as the rector's wife Caroline makes a challenge over an ancient country tradition and splits the village her husband had so recently united.
As the people of the village use the power of words to reconcile or divide, Peter finds that it is what isn't talked about that threatens to cause madness, confusion and tragedy.
Shaw returns to the English hamlet of Turnham Malpas, scene of The New Rector, for her second novel, charming and treacly by turns. Crammed hedge to herbaceous border with spinsters and retirees, the village (and the plot) is dominated by the Rectory. Colorful characters include rough-hewn Jimmy, a rabbit trapper; overbearing Lady Sheila Bissett, who is determined to arrange flowers for the church fete; and the almost identical Baxter twins, recluses who verge on the bizarre. Changes come slow and small, with a new health club providing much of the dramatic tension, and solutions to problems seem to fall from the sky. It's frequently hard to believe that these people are living in the 1990s, but scratch the surface and you'll find a sizable chunk of dirt below the charming bucolic facade. If this is the kind of cozy place where a single person might feel moved to explain the purchase of two slices of cheesecake, it's also the kind of place where a little ritual stoning might occur if residents feel sufficiently stirred. Unfortunately, all events are granted equivalent tonal weight here, with controversies over minor events humorously overstated, while a kidnapping and news of the Rector's previous adultery receive incidental shrift.