Retried school teacher Emily Simpson and her friend Lucy Bellinger, both denizens of a village called Badger's Drift, have an unspoken competition going on between them as to who would first spot a rare variety of orchid. While walking through the woods one day, Emily spots the orchids and is most ecstatic. However, she also stumbles upon a couple making love out in the open. Desperate to get away, she looses her footing and thus reveals her presence to them.
The next day, she is found dead. Nobody has any suspicions but her friend Lucy Bellinger insists that her friend was murdered. Her insistence brings Chief Inspector Thomas Barnaby and Sergeant Gavin Troy to the scene. More killings follow. Slowly, the facts emerge and the killer is revealed.
Sex lies like a miasma over the entire village and novel. Every one, it seems, has only one thing in mind. No relationship is sacred. Trust and loyalty are things of the past. What then is the appeal of the book? To me, it was the strained relationship between the two policemen. While Barnaby is a (thankfully) non-demon-ridden policeman, it is his Sergeant's thoughts on the privileged class, and homosexuals that I found humorous, especially as they revealed so much about him. Till the time when Troy remarked (regarding a gay character) that such people ought to be castrated. And then it wasn't funny anymore as it brought to my mind the tragic story of the cryptographer Alan Turing.
First Line: She had been walking in the woods just before teatime when she saw them.
Series: Inspector Barnaby #1
Publishing Details: NY: Avon. 1989
First Published: 1987
Source: Open Library
Trivia: The book has been made into a TV drama.
Other books read of the same author: None
Submitted for the Crimes of the century meme @ Past Offences. July's year was 1987.