Merrily Watkins, parish priest, single mum and Deliverance Consultant to the Diocese of Hereford, heads for the Malvern Hills to investigate an alleged paranormal dimension to a spate of road accidents in the sleepy village of Wychehill.
Merrily is called in when two people are killed in a head-on crash that is also linked to the revamped local pub which, it seems, has injected the valley with a shattering, strobing surge of inner-city nightlife... and drugs. When a dealer is found savagely murdered below the great earthen hillfort of Herefordshire Beacon, police ask: is it a ritual killing, a gangland disposal or a cry of outrage?
As Merrily and the police follow separate paths towards the truth, Merrily's teenage daughter, Jane, faces the consequences of her own obsession with a possibly prehistoric site in their home village of Ledwardine. Until, on a night of frenzied violence, in a place at the centre of an ancient, universal mystery, the final, shocking connections are made.
In what may be the most captivating mystery to date in Rickman's Merrily Watkins series (after 2006's The Smile of a Ghost), victims in several car accidents near the Malvern village of Wychehill report swerving to avoid ghosts. One doesn't have to be a believer in the paranormal to become engrossed as Merrily, parish priest and exorcism consultant, examines connections that some have made to the famous English composer, Elgar, who once lived in Wychehill and is venerated by many residents of the town. As the investigation takes Merrily deeper and deeper into the lives of the villagers, her teenage daughter is fighting her own battle at home against a proposed housing development that will destroy what's considered ancient sacred space. Rickman provides (at some length) meticulous historical background on Elgar and vivid descriptions that create the backdrop for an unusual cast of characters and a dramatic, thrilling conclusion.