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Monday 3 June 2019

‘Dangerous Deceits’ by Cherith Baldry

Published by Matador,
28 January 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-789016-15-4 (PB)

With a hero called Gawaine St Clair whose mind is usually occupied by a theme from a Bach partita or some other equally erudite consideration that has little or no relevance to everyday concerns, a reporter who goes by the name of Persephone Brown, and a veritable bulldozer of a woman who is disguised as an adopted aunt called Christobel Cottesmore, this story does not immediately strike one as being in tune with the age we live in.  But, just as in Agatha Christie and PG Woodhouse novels we are shown that, despite the apparent freedoms that appear to have embraced society in recent decades, worries about the opinions of those in close communities still remains pertinent to some of those involved in comparatively minor felonies or what in their neighbourhood or church congregation is regarded as socially unacceptable behaviour.

A body, believed to be that of Father Thomas Coates, the former Vicar of St Paul’s church in Ellingwood, has been discovered.  He had been murdered. Liked by some and strongly disliked by others - he had started to use incense - Father Tomas had uncomfortably strict views on a number of matters.  He had disappeared a couple of weeks previously only a few minutes before he was due to take the Sunday morning service. Christobel Cottesmore is the Vicar’s warden and she believes that Gawaine will do a better job than the police at determining who killed the vicar.

There is the usual and rather long list of suspects and misdemeanors. A headmaster has been having an affair with the wife of one of the villagers who in his turn blames the vicar and the church for not being able to sell some land he owns.  The church’s treasurer has erected a new conservatory and been on an expensive cruise. Has he been fiddling the books?  Another lady has been refused communion because she is divorced.  Did she or her new husband take revenge?  And so it goes on…..  Gerwaine listens, talks and watches until such time as it becomes clear who killed the vicar, and why.

Notwithstanding the moral undertones portrayed by some of its more stereotypical characters, Dangerous Deceits is a lighthearted romp in the cozy tradition.

Reviewer Angela Crowther
Cherith Baldry was born in 1947 in Lancaster and studied at the University of Manchester and St Anne's College, Oxford. She worked as a teacher, including lecturing at Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, before becoming a full-time writer, mainly of science-fiction and fantasy. Her previous novel, Brutal Terminations, was published by Matador in 2018. She lives in Surrey.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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