Dr. Raymond Ferens is thrilled to move from his industrial practice to a picturesque village in the Devon countryside and with his wife Anne they set up home in the Dower House – a study for him, a kitchen for her. Lord and Lady Ridding live in the Manor House, old Dr. Brown is getting ready to leave his practice to Raymond, there’s the church, the post office, farms, and a children’s home that’s been run by Sister Monica for more than 30 years. A formidable warden she wears an old fashioned habit and seems to have a strange hold over the villagers.
And at first all seems idyllic. But. Set on a hill top on Exmoor, Milham in the Moor has cut itself off from neighbouring towns and villages; not trusting strangers or liking questions; so when Sister Monica’s body is found in the Mill-Race the villagers close in on themselves, agreeing only that she was a saint, she had been having dizzy spells and it was an accident. Chief Inspector Macdonald is called in from the Yard with his able deputy Detective Inspector Reeves.
I really enjoyed this one, the village was a bit like being with the Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm. Raymond and Anne Ferens had a well rounded story and their arrival in the village provided a very natural introduction to the village characters. There was a lot of creeping around and things going bump in the night, half truths about an old murder and mystery surrounding Sister Monica to built up an exciting sense of tension!
I was, perhaps, expecting more from Anne Ferens . I thought from their introduction that they might be a married pair of sleuths but once they’d moved in and she had met the neighbours she seemed to disappear until the end. Macdonald as usual is patient and dependable finding the time to delight in the countryside and listen to the bird song. In fact he gets so much done that I thought he and Reeves had been in Milham in the Moor for weeks but no, actually only a day and a half so I suppose Anne had just been busy in her kitchen.
Written in 1952, Gramarye the orphanage, is at the centre of the mystery and the backstory given to the maids who work there added an element of depth that I wasn’t expecting. It was a reminder of the treatment of vulnerable women at the turn of the twentieth century and provided a stark contrast to the life of its benefactor, Lady Ridding and the happiness of Raymond and Anne in the 1950’s.