The Office of the Dead: Roth Trilogy Book 3 (The Roth Trilogy)

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9780002325592: The Office of the Dead: Roth Trilogy Book 3 (The Roth Trilogy)

The final volume in the acclaimed Roth Trilogy, which, like an archaeological dig, strips away the layers of a psychopath’s history: ‘Taylor has established a sound reputation for writing tense, clammy novels that perceptively penetrate the human psyche’ – Marcel Berlins, The Times

It’s 1958, and the party’s over for Wendy Appleyard: she finds herself penniless, jobless and on the brink of divorce. Who better to come to her rescue than her oldest friend, Janet Byfield?

So Wendy goes to stay with Janet, who seems to have everything Wendy lacks: a handsome husband, a lovely little daughter, Rosie, and a beautiful home in the Cathedral Close of Rosington. David Byfield is on the verge of promotion, and Janet is the perfect wife for an ambitious young clergyman.

But perfection has always been dangerous, and gradually the idyll sours. Old sins come to haunt the present and breed new sins in their place. The shadow of death seeps through the Close, and with it comes the double mystery stretching back to turn-of-the-century Rosington, to a doomed poet-priest called Francis Youlgreave.

Only Wendy, the outsider looking in, glimpses the truth. But can she grasp its dark and twisted logic in time to prevent the coming tragedy.

The Office of the Dead is a chilling novel of crime and retribution, and is the third volume of Andrew Taylor’s stunning and acclaimed Roth Trilogy.

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Book 3 of the Roth Trilogy. A super copy.

Review:

There are thrillers in which the use of language is pared down and functional to ensure the swiftest possible movement of the plot. But some writers have demonstrated that it is possible to utilise prose of the most elegant and sophisticated variety without sacrificing one iota of the riveting narrative quality. Andrew Taylor is one of the finest stylists in the genre, and remarkable pieces of work such as The Barred Window have made his books essential reading for the most discerning of crime enthusiasts.

The Office of The Dead, third in the Roth trilogy (The Four Last Things and The Judgement of Strangers), links the histories of two families, the Appleyards and the Byfields. It's England circa 1958 and Wendy Appleyard is in deep trouble. She's facing divorce with no money or work experience, so she looks to her oldest friend, Janet Byfield, for assistance. Unlike Wendy, Janet appears to be enjoying everything that life can offer: a good-looking husband, a loving daughter and an exquisite home in the Cathedral Close of Rosington. Her husband is an ambitious young clergyman, on the verge of promotion.

But there is the worm in the rosy bud: sins of the past begin to make a devastating claim on the present, and death comes to the Close, along with a mystery that reaches back to the previous century involving an ill-fated poet priest and opium addict called Francis Youlgreave. Wendy, as the outsider in this close-knit community, begins to suspect the truth about the dark secrets around her, and finds herself having to unlock a double mystery.

Taylor's theme, as in so much serious literature, is the inexorable hold that the past has over the present--and this is rendered in language of the most thoughtful and exuberant kind:

My mother thought Hillgard House would make me a lady. My father thought it would get me out of the way for most of the year. He was right and she was wrong. We didn't learn to be young ladies at Hillgard House--we learnt to be little savages in a jungle presided over by remote predators.
-- Barry Forshaw

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