The Office of the Dead

Andrew Taylor, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-20348-1
Maiden ladies who would make Miss Marple smile and villains as vile as Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter populate this witty, urbane but dark third volume in Taylor's Roth Trilogy (The Four Last Things and The Judgement of Strangers). Was Isabella of Roth really incinerated by evil forces centuries ago? Can Wendy and Henry Appleyard prevent a reprise of her murder? These questions underlie Taylor's 20th novel and demonstrate why he's earned a Creasy Award. Wendy flees 1950s London to escape her philandering husband, Henry, and takes refuge with chum Janet Blyfield in the seminary town of Rosington. She begins work as the cathedral library cataloguer and stumbles on an ancient mystery surrounding Victorian poet-priest Francis Youlgreave. Eventually, a reformed Henry, risking everything to get Wendy back, joins in the sleuthing. They research vicious acts of vandalism and murder--possibly perpetrated by the unholy man of God, Youlgreave. The plot expands with Wendy's secret attraction to Janet's clergyman spouse, David, and the arrival of Janet's demented father, John Treevor. Soon, animal carcasses and human corpses litter the Dark Hostelry, the Blyfields' moldering parsonage. Wendy, impelled by love for her friends, dodges personal danger to solve the wicked riddle. A melancholy denouement turns the case topsy-turvy. While the books of the Roth Trilogy may be read independently, for maximum enjoyment they ought to be read in sequence. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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