There's a wonderfully sly, almost mocking overtone to this middle part of a mystery trilogy by British master Andrew Taylor. As the narrator--a pompous, self-pitying clergyman named David Byfield--says about a dinner engagement: "As a consequence of my accepting their invitation, two people died, a third went to prison, and a fourth was admitted to a hospital for the insane." No beating about the bush there, or anywhere else in this story set in 1970 (25 years before the events of The Four Last Things, the first book in Taylor's trilogy about a fictional London suburb called Roth). The Judgement of Strangers helps explain what happens in the first book, but also stands on its own as a mordant mystery about sexual repression.|
Byfield, a handsome widower with a psychologically fragile teenaged daughter, stirs up trouble with his attention to several women, all of whom pay a much higher price than he does. By making Byfield such a dolt, Taylor lets us sympathize with even the most odious of his conquests--Audrey, the obsessed local historian and operator of the world's nastiest teashop. "I watched the excitement draining from Audrey's face like water from a bath," Byfield tells us. "I felt ashamed of myself and also irritated with her. Why did she insist on calling Roth a village? It was a suburb of London, similar in all essentials to a dozen others. Most of its inhabitants had their real lives elsewhere. In Roth they merely serviced their bodily needs, watched television and on Sundays played golf or cleaned their Ford Cortinas." Book three promises to go back even further in time and tell us how Byfield's first wife died.
Source: Dick Adler, Amazon.com.