Father Gabriel Neville has everything going for him: intellectual prowess, physical beauty, a wife who adores him and beautiful twin children; he also has a prestigious church job at St Anne's, Kensington Gardens, in London, and the prospect of promotion to Archdeacon. But his perfect world is shattered when he receives an anonymous letter threatening to expose a dangerous secret from his past - something that could destroy his career and his marriage - something that no one could possibly know.
The only person Gabriel can turn to is David Middleton-Brown, an old friend and a man with a few secrets of his own. Against his better judgement, David comes to London to stay with another old friend, Daphne Elford, the Sacristan at St Anne's.
Discreet enquiries bring to light a whole host of suspects: the eccentric church organist, Miles Taylor; gossip Mavis Conwell; the disapproving Dawson family; Churchwarden Cyril Fitzjames, in love for years with Gabriel's wife Emily; even Emily Neville's charming and talented friend, the artist Lucy Kingsley. In his efforts to help Gabriel uncover the blackmailer, David hauls some skeletons out of cupboards, and enters into a web of relationships that threaten his own peace of mind.
And then one of the suspects is found dead - is it suicide or murder? And what does this death have to do with Gabriel's dilemma? David goes looking for secrets - and finds much more than he bargained for...
"A bloodstained version of the world of Barbara Pym... could make one late for Evensong." (The Guardian)
"Characters dotty enough to have wandered in from an Angela Thirkell novel ... pomp and pageantry ... and a neatly contained plot." (New York Times Book Review)
"Thoughtful, mature, and mesmerizing ... a mystery very reminiscent of Pym."
(Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"A stunning debut. The author... brilliantly lures the reader down one track, then another, always managing to surprise." (Chicago Sun-Times)
"Charles... [mixes] sex and ecclesiastics in her complex first mystery." (Publishers Weekly)
"A fine debut by a talented writer... secret lives, shady pasts and intrigue... a neat twist at the end... a good read." (Belfast Telegraph)