this is the 201st in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin by W.J. Burley
“Marsden opened his eyes; the plaster between the rafters was greyish white, the rafters themselves cobalt blue, painted by Emma; spider’s webs in the corners.”
It’s the twenty-third of December, and Chief Super-intendent Wycliffe is not looking forward to Christmas. With his wife away in Kenya, he has accepted an invitation from a slight friend, Penzance lawyer Ernest Bishop, to spend a few days at the Bishops’ cliff-top home on the Cornish coast. When Wycliffe arrives, the weather is bleak, the house is remote, and the welcome from the family no more than polite. He has the distinct feeling he is in the way.
On Christmas Eve, the local church puts on it’s annual nativity play, the part of the Virgin played by Francine, a pretty teenage girl. Wycliffe is impressed by her singing and acting ability, and afterwards goes with many other members of the audience to compliment her. But she is nowhere to be found. She went to the dressing room, changed into in her regular clothes and then went missing.
When she hasn’t returned home by morning, Wycliffe is asked to initiate a search, which he does with no success. But then, on Christmas day, the girl’s mother is found dead, and the missing persons search becomes a major crime investigation with Wycliffe directing it.
Not unexpectedly, the past has it’s influence on events. The girl’s father has just gotten out of prison, was his crime related to the girl’s dissappearence? He also vanishes, thereby becoming a prime suspect. But would he have killed his wife, and if so, why? And where is the daughter?
This is a well written, moody, atmospheric mystery with strong character and sense of place. I hadn’t read any of the Wycliffe books, but after reading this, I’ve gathered a few more to try and it won’t be long before I get to another one.
I remember watching the TV show but have never tried the books actually. No idea how simialr they are …
Nor do I, not having seen the TV show. I prefer to read the books to watching the TV.
For a decade or so I wrote TV reviews as a professional sideline so its pretty ingrained for me now … 🙂
Yes, I can see how that would be so.
Richard, W.J. Burley is a new author for me and this sounds like a good old traditional mystery.
Based on this one, traditional, yes.
I’ve only read one Wycliffe – the first, THREE-TOED PUSSY (later reissued as WYCLIFFE AND…) and wasn’t taken with it enough to read another. I used to buy up as many of the British paperbacks as I found, for resale, especially his few early books that weren’t published in the U.S. (at least at that time). I found Jack Shepherd to be a little dull for my taste in the television series, but did enjoy the Cornish scenery.
I got Three-Toed Pussy and the next 4 books in the series from BookSwap, Jeff. All in very good condition, I might add. That’s the one I’ll read next, but won’t be so put off if it’s not as good, having read your and George’s comments. I have no idea who Jack Shepard is, but assume he was in the TV version? No such character in the book.
I’m with Jeff on THREE-TOED PUSSY. I have more Burley books around here but haven’t gotten around to reading them.
So the first one threw you off. You might try one of the later ones, George.
I like atmospheric and moody!
This is no Hound of the Baskervilles in moodiness, but it’s good. Grey, rainy Cornish countryside, chalk cliffs above pounding waves… good.
New for me, too, but this gone girl mystery intrigues me more than the popular one that’s required reading for book clubs hither and yon.
This was an interesting one, Matt.
I read THREE-TOED PUSSY in the last couple of years and I enjoyed it. Have several more in the series to read. I may have to get a copy of this one for next Christmas.
Why wait, there’s time to read it this year!
Jack Shepherd played Wycliffe in the British TV series. I just found him dull, but maybe that’s just me. I didn’t think THREE-TOED PUSSY was bad. It just didn’t make me want to read more at the time. I’ve meant to try another but…so many books, too little time.
Amen to that, Jeff
I too like ‘moody and atmospheric’, Richard. This sounds like something I’d like. I’m partial to books where people disappear and the hunt leads to a murder here and there.
Yvette, I think you would like this one.