Keith Miles is probably best recognised by readers under the pen name of Edward Marston. He writes several well-received historical mysteries spanning the 11th century through to the 19th century. His website is www.edwardmarston.com
In his latest outing, DI Ted Stratton comes with a lot of baggage – guilt over his wife’s death, remorse over the mistakes he made in his last case (featured in A Capital Crime) embarrassment over his sex life, unease about his soldier son’s departure to Suez and reservations about other members of his family.
When Jeremy Lloyd is stabbed to death in a Soho flat, he leaves behind evidence of an obsessive interest in esoteric religion. Taking charge of the case, Stratton follows the trail to Suffolk where a Foundation for Spiritual Understanding occupies a supposedly haunted house.
The one bonus is that Stratton is able to team up with his old friend, the former DS Ballard, now promoted to the rank of DI. Both men decide that the Foundation is decidedly weird and full of willing victims of their leader, the pontificating Theodore Roth. Each of them is disturbed by an encounter with Mary Milburn, a woman of unashamed sexual potency, now renamed Ananda by Roth because it’s the Sanskrit word for ‘bliss’. Bizarrely, her twelve-year old son has been proclaimed a spiritual icon and the fruit of an immaculate conception.
When a woman is murdered in the woods, the detectives soon realise that the crimes are related and that the killer is almost certainly a member of the Foundation. As the investigation continues, Stratton and Ballard both have unwelcome surprises in their private lives. They also have to accommodate a series of amazing revelations about the various suspects.
A Willing Victim is a complex, richly-textured novel, beautifully written and asking serious questions about the nature of belief and wilful self-deception. Set in 1956, it uses period detail subtly and accurately. Laura Wilson knows that drivers always started their car by pulling out the choke in the 1950’s. She also knows how to craft an outstanding crime novel and produce a hugely satisfying read.
Many thanks, Laura – more, please.