This is the 15th book in W J Burley’s Wycliffe series. First published in 1988, it is set in a Cornish village, which Burley identifies as Mevagissy, although with several ‘˜inaccuracies’ as he did ‘˜not want to imply that the people, the events, or the detailed locations described, have any reality outside the pages of this book. ‘¦ In particular, and fortunately, the Rules and the Clemos, whose troubles are recounted, are families existing only in my imagination.’
Wycliffe is brought in to investigate the disappearance of a schoolgirl, Hilda Clemo, when it appears that she had been raped or murdered ‘“ or both. She had just told her sister and then her boyfriend that she was pregnant and had not been seen since 5pm on that afternoon. The investigation centres on her boyfriend, Ralph Martin and her family ‘“ the Clemos and their relations, the Rules.
Hilda had planned exactly what she was going to do:
‘¦ she would first break the news to Alice [her sister]: ‘˜I’m pregnant.’ Alice would tell Esther, Esther would have the job of breaking it to her father. She, herself, would tell Ralph Martin; there would be another session with her brother-in-law, Bertie; another with ‘¦
‘¦ she had decided that she could predict their reactions, almost the very words they would use. (pages 10 & 11)
It turns out to be a complicated case, especially when Wycliffe finds a body ‘“ but not Hilda’s and wonders if this death is connected to Hilda’s disappearance. It really is a tangled web that Wycliffe is faced with ‘“ family relationships, lies, resentments and manipulation that go badly wrong. Wycliffe works on getting to know the victim first, which he believes will lead him to discovering what has prompted the killer to strike. His problem is that Hilda is not an easy person to know. As he digs deeper he finds she has contact with a wider circle of people than her family realises.
I’ve read a few of the Wycliffe books and I think this is one of the best. Although it is so complicated it is an easy book to read, well paced and well plotted, with several sub-plots that link up the present and the present to help Wycliffe untangle the web.
Reading Challenges: Mount TBR Reading Challenge – a book I’ve had for nearly two years; and the Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt for the Silver Age (books published between 1960 and 1989 (inclusive) in the Body of Water category.