Thursday, February 1, 2018

Murder in Advent - David Williams

I'm still full of whatever cold/flu bug that's been laying me low, and finding it hard to concentrate on reading, so I've been knitting instead. I actually finished 'Murder in Advent' before I went on holiday, but it's taking me just as long to get round to writing about things as it is to finish books (it's just to tempting to sleep instead).

I think this one was a stocking filler from Christmas 2016 so it seemed well past time to read it, it was originally published in 1985, which is in line with a few of these Pan reprints. I've had mixed experiences with them, some having been much better than others and initially I wasn't that taken with 'Murder in Advent'.

After the confusing bit at the beginning where we get introduced to a lot of people with not very convincing names though it got a lot better. Merchant banker, Mark Treasure (that's where it goes with the names) has been invited to Litchester Cathedral to give the casting vote on if their copy of the Magna Carta should be sold to an American museum. The cathedral desperately needs the money, but the chapter is divided over the sale. Mr Treasure holds an honorary position as a vicar warden which is why he gets the deciding vote.

What the reader discovers in the foreword though is that the Magna Carta is almost certainly a fake. Knowing this we're naturally suspicious of all those who oppose the sale, and then when at the 11th hour the library where it's kept catches fire and the Magna Carta is destroyed we're even more suspicious. Unfortunately the Magna Carta isn't the only thing to go in the fire, the Dean's verger is discovered dead, murdered in fact.

Mr Treasure starts investigating, and as he does so everything gets murkier. Almost everybody seems to have had the opportunity to murder the verger, and almost anybody might have had a very good motive - it just depends on who knew the charter might have been a fake. In the meantime there's a few other unsavoury goings on that just might be a motive for murde too.

What I really liked about this, apart from the ecclesiastical details (which I always enjoy) is that for once it seemed like a really feasible reason for murder. If the Litchester Magna Carta really has been pinched someone has a lot to lose if the fraud is discovered. Certainly enough to think that setting fire to it is the answer, and even enough to decide that the death of an old man is reasonable collateral damage. It's also a safe bet that everyone involved with the cathedral is going to be keen to hush things up, because what a scandal...

The way that suspicion and opportunity is liberally spread around is satisfying too - the guilty party is by no means obvious even as the plot elements come together, and the red herrings are well placed. Altogether the genuine article when it comes to unjustly neglected gems.


  1. This looks like something to look out for to read next Christmas!

    1. Yes, although it's the least Christmassy Christmas mystery I've ever read (there's no snow, nobody gets stuck in a country house, no one dresses as Santa...) there's a vague reference to brightly lit shops, and it being cold enough to want a heater but that's about it. What made it for me is that I could really empathise with the unknown murderer - not often the case, but murdering for reputation makes more sense to me than murdering just for money