Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
First published in the 1980s under the title Redemption, Murder at the Old Vicarage is the second in a series now numbering thirteen and featuring Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd and his sergeant Judy Hill.
The title makes the novel sound as though the readers are well and truly in Agatha Christie land, and so in some respects we are. But in the respects that matter – characterisation, development of relationships and close examination of domestic harmony– Jill McGown is writing for a much more modern readership.
On a snowy Christmas Eve Lloyd is regretting that he won’t be spending Christmas with Judy who is his lover as well as his sergeant. The village vicar George Wheeler, happily married, is less happy about his calling, but newcomer to the village Eleanor Langton, whose husband was killed in a motor cycle accident three years earlier is a welcome distraction. But then Graham Elstow, George’swife-beating son in law, calls in search of his wife, Joanna. Christmas is not going to be the happy family festival that they had expected. Far from it, because a vicious murder takes place, which Lloyd and Judy are called upon to solve.
A domestic murder in a snow-bound village seems familiar territory, but Murder at the Old Vicarage provides far more than that. The author handles a small cast of characters with great expertise, as the plot twists and turns with the characters each following their own agenda, taking the reader deep into their minds and motivations. It is for Lloyd and Hill to endeavour both to solve their personal relationship problems and to understand what has been going on in Byford village; they work their way to the centre of the maze with which they have been presented and by revealing the truth behind the murder bring redemption to those who have been caught up in its horrors.