Book nine of the Gervase Fen series, sat easily as a stand alone novel. Set in a Devon country village you meet many interestingly-named characters and get a feel for some unexpected activity on a pig farm.
The tale begins with a conversation between two characters, The Major and Gervase Fen, about the likelihood of solving an eight-week-old murder. The story, a string of brutal killings and decapitations which has the local police puzzled, has armchair detective Gervase Fen seeking answers from many observers.
The observers or village residents, who appear to be caricatures, are a varied bunch with sometimes startling opinions that may be introductions to the several subplots that wind their way through the tale. Passages like this may either be seen as comedic or as distractions:
“Mavis was a nympho, I suppose, but calling her that gives a wrong impression. She never seemed to flirt or ogle or any of that stuff. But then, she didn’t have to, or anyway, not obviously; she was just naturally cheerfully sexy, with a sort of built-in spontaneous come-hither which gave you the idea, very powerfully, that making love to her would be all fun and no complications. It was, too–or so I gather. Damn it, I was quite taken with the girl myself. Not that I’d have married her, of course (she didn’t seem interested in making a second marriage, come to that), and of course, me being a cleric and not approving of all this promiscuity anyway, there was no question of an affaire (besides you can’t stay properly fit if you keep fornicating all the time). Even so, I still got the impression that she wouldn’t have minded nabbing me, on a temporary basis,” said the Rector, with obvious gratification. “So you can see, she wasn’t what you’d call choosy.”
The story had many disquieting elements such as the juxtaposition of explicit nastiness, (animal torture, human dismemberment, child abuse) with humour, although this too was sometimes overtly sexist and distasteful. It is a convoluted mystery tale that takes the reader on an unsettling journey that at its heart is a cosy murder mystery.
After finishing this book, I am now going to find the others in the series to see what they are like.
Reviewed by Leanne Caune
Rating out of 10: 7
Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Re-Released: September 2018