This is the latest of the series set in the lovely village of Kurland St. Mary Catherine Lloyd writes as Jane Austen might if she had decided to turn her hand to mysteries.
The story starts out with the annual village fair, while plans for Lucy Harrington’s forthcoming marriage to Sir Robert Kurland are underway. But first, Sir Robert gets his first taste at being a judge of the local produce for the year. He duly inspects the entries and picks the most attractive in each category. He doesn’t expect the flurry of dissent that meets his choices. It seems that he has picked the local verger, Mr. Ezekiel Thurrock, as first in many categories, thus making him getting more first prizes than any other contestant in the last twenty or so years.
While the village is stirred up about this latest happening, Ezekiel’s brother Nathaniel also arrives to visit. Before long, Sir Robert and Lucy discover that the Thurrocks are not well liked in the village. That is made very plain when Ezekiel is found dead, having been struck in the head by a stone gargoyle. At first considered an accident, as Lucy and Sir Robert get further into this it looks less and less like an accident.
Added to the drama is the presence of the Turner sisters, known as healers and wise women. Ezekiel is found to have an ill-wishing charm on him, and the Turners are under closer scrutiny. When Nathaniel Thurrock is found dead of an apparent heart attack not longer after is brother’s death, the plot thickens considerably.
This is a well-constructed story that takes us into the realm of past history, past wrongs never avenged, suggestions of witchcraft. While Lucy and Sir Robert get caught up in these events, Lucy also has to answer to her father’s displeasure for unseemly conduct of an unmarried woman.
Has some two-century-old curse come to pass? Or is there some more recent explanation for the deaths of the two Thurrocks? And are Lucy and Sir Robert going to be able to go forward with their wedding? Answering these questions makes for an absorbing read that is most satisfying and clever in its plot and characterizations.
My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.