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by Deborah Crombie
Bantam Books, June 2002
354 pages
ISBN: 0553579274

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jack Montfort is confused and embarrassed when he starts spontaneously writing down messages from Edmund, a monk who lived at Glastonbury Abbey in the Middle Ages. He finally brings himself to share this information with several other people, and the eclectic group tries to figure out what Edmund is trying to tell Jack. However, when one of the group, Jack's girlfriend Winnie Catesby, is struck and almost killed in a hit-and-run accident, Jack begins to feel that he may be in over his head. He contacts his cousin, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard, and asks him to come to Glastonbury to investigate Winnie's accident. Kincaid agrees, bringing his former partner Inspector Gemma James with him, and, when a death occurs shortly after their arrival, they find themselves wrapped up in the ancient and present-day mysteries of Glastonbury.

Glastonbury has become something of a mecca for hippies and New Agers in Britain, many of whom claim that the city is located on land that is strong in magical energy. The focus of this energy is said to be Glastonbury Tor, a unusual conical hill with a lone church tower at the top. The city is also home to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, where Jack's Brother Edmund resided; the abbey claimed to be the final resting place of King Arthur and his queen, Guinevere. Legend also has it that, after the death of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea traveled to Glastonbury, bringing with him the Holy Grail. Crombie's book, which not only focuses on Jack's automatic writing but on mystical experiences with music and art, is perfectly set, and she brings the city of Glastonbury and many of its eccentric residents to life.

Perhaps because of the setting, these supernatural elements do not seem out of place in the book, and it is not hard to suspend one's disbelief and become involved in the story. The parallel mysteries, of Edmund's mission and of the modern-day injury and death, are tied together very nicely, and Crombie throws in enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing all the way to the end. Kincaid's romantic partnership with Gemma James also continues to evolve, and by the end of the book the two have reached a new level in their relationship. All of the characters, major and minor, are so interesting and well-drawn that the reader is reluctant to leave them at the end of the book. Crombie does an excellent job of evoking an atmosphere and sense of place, as well, making this a very satisfying and enjoyable read.

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Reviewed by Kathleen Chappell, July 2002

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