cover image A Word After Dying

A Word After Dying

Ann Granger. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-17067-7

While the sleuthing duo of Inspector Alan Markby and his diplomat lover, Meredith Mitchell (last seen in Touch of Mortality, 1997), are rather quiet on these pages, this tale of secret doings in the remote English village of Parsloe St. John is carefully nuanced and concludes with a couple of fine surprises. Reclusive old Olivia Smeaton trips, apparently, and falls to her death. Her beloved horse Firefly is mysteriously poisoned, and then the large, unkempt body of Ernie, an illiterate local handyman, is found in one spot while his severed head shows up in another. Close to the village, evidence of recent satanic activity is found near three ancient stone statues. All this adds up to a busman's holiday for vacationing Markby and Mitchell, who are considering early retirement and have come to the area in search of a house to buy. The secretive Olivia's past (she was once a society lady and famous car racer) heightens curiosity about her long period of seclusion. The village boasts a tarty cleaning lady; Kevin, the abused and seemingly simpleminded offspring of Ernie; and Sadie, a shopkeeper and practicing witch. The narrative captures an accelerating tension and delivers final revelations that startle while remaining true to the nature of the characters in question. Granger's latest offers abundant, understated pleasures. (July)