Daffodils freeze and shrubs cry in Stormhaven. They call it ‘the Beast from the East’ and the temperature’s unholy; it crucifies all with cruel nails of ice; a Siberian chill piercing their bones. And there will be a further killing tonight – human, not plant; boy, not man.
So begins another case for Abbot Peter and D.I. Tamsin Shah, with the discovery of a young man’s body at the seaside beauty spot of Splash Point. He drowns beneath a cold, uncaring moon; and as P.C. Banville observes, it proves a ‘hungry death’, not sated by one unfortunate corpse. There must, and will, be more.
The investigation will lead the Abbot and Shah into deep but different danger. And it’s not just the killer they need worry about.
Pray for the coming of spring.
And that’s the invitation on the back of the book to step into another murder mystery, if murder mystery’s your thing. And if it isn’t your thing, who knows, you might just be surprised.
To be honest, murder mysteries are more about life than death. Death just focuses the mind about life.
This is the Abbot Peter’s sixth outing as he settles into a life by the sea, far away from the deserts of Middle-Egypt where once he looked after the fading and failing monastery of St James-the-Less. (This story is told in Another Bloody Retreat.)
A man who is fundamentally unemployable – unable to tick any of the necessary boxes or mutter the required inanities in interview – the abbot must make his money where he can. And sometimes he does this by ‘helping the police with the enquiries’; though, with no attempt at humility, he’d call it ‘doing their job for them.’
Say what you like about him, though, (and the police do) the abbot does solve murders.
And then there’s D.I. Tamsin Shah, who brings him in on her cases; and always regrets it. She looks for helpful support from her colleagues. But God help them if they shine brighter than her.
It’s an interesting partnership.
Though this investigation will take Shah deep into the strange world of undertaking, where the abbot’s feet might be surer than hers. She really can’t be doing with coffins, ashes in urns ‘and the very slow cars.’
And it all starts at an evening talk in the Crypt Gallery, on the validity of a single witness. Can the testimony of a single witness send anyone down? The law says ‘no’, and always has done since Old Testament times.
But in this investigation, a single witness will scream loud to be heard. They’ll scream and they’ll scream.
‘A Hearse at Midnight’ is published by White Crow and available at all tippity-top bookshops and online outlets.