September 18, 2003

Fete Fatale, by Robert Barnard

A couple of years ago a correspondent suggested that I try some of Robert Barnard's mystery novels. I managed to find a couple at a local used bookstore, and indeed I enjoyed them, but I had little luck finding any more after that. That changed during my recent trip to Ann Arbor; at a used bookstore there, I found nine of his paperbacks at $2.50 each, and I nabbed them.

This is the first of the set, and it's a treat. It takes place in the Yorkshire town of Hexton-on-Weir. The ladies of Hexton are set in their ways, and when it comes to Divine Services their tastes are decidely low-church. Nothing Romish or papistical for them. But the long-time Anglican vicar has passed away, and the Bishop's appointee for the position is not only high-church (Heavens! He lights candles and wears a cassock!) but also celibate. This cannot be borne, for the ladies of Hexton are accustomed to running the town behind the scenes, and an unmarried vicar simply Will Not Do. How would they control him?

This is the kind of mystery in which the murder comes about halfway through, thus giving you two mysteries in one--first, who's going to die, and second, whodunnit. The details of village politics are delightfully petty without becoming farcical, and the ending is satisfyingly unpredictable. All in all, I give it two thumbs up, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Posted by Will Duquette at September 18, 2003 05:08 PM

Steven said:

Robert Barnard is a fantastic craftsman. I liked "Corpse in a Guilded Cage" and a couple others. He is, however, a very gloomy writer with a very bad attitude. The last book of his that I read was either Death and the Princess or Death and the Perfect Mother. You wind up hating everyone in the books, and are so grateful that the population of Robert Barnard characters are being thined or euthenized by the end that you really don't care if the bad guy gets caught, and are kind of happy in a couble of places where the bad guy isn't caught.

Will Duquette said:

Interesting. In the few of his I've read so far, I hadn't noticed that. I'll be on the lookout.