A Bedlam of Bones: A Reverend Oughterard Mystery
by Suzette A. Hill
Review by Mel Jacob
Soho Constable Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569479599
Date: 19 July 2011 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Francis Ougherard, vicar of Molehill, takes the reader on romp through the English countryside of the 1950s although much of the mood smacks of classic mysteries of the 1930s. He is accompanied by his cat Maurice and dog Bouncer and they help narrate the tale. Filled with abundant humor as the gin loving, music playing, and smoking vicar, his sister Primrose, and his friend Ingaza muddle through and try to save the Bishop of Queensbury, Horace Clinker, from a dreadful scandal from his earlier days. Blackmail and murder both past and present complicate matters.
A loony cast of characters aid or hinder the vicar in his efforts to save the bishop and to punish the villains. Primrose has worked with Ingaza on a scheme to export her paintings to Canada purporting to be old English country pictures. Always engaged in one nefarious scheme or another, Ingaza is also a victim of the blackmail scheme. The self-important bishop has a promotion looming and must keep scandal away, but does little to solve the problem. A couple the vicar met in France has come to England, and he fears at least one of them is bent on mischief. A parishioner, Mavis Briggs, long a thorn in the vicar's side, manages to add more confusion to an already muddled investigation.
The vicar's old friend Maud Tubby Pole the mystery writer provides important clues to the villains. Her gin-swilling bulldog, Gunga Din, egged on by Bouncer, manages to create mischief of his own.
Hill is noted for sly humor, an English rural setting, and fumbling, lunatic characters. A Bedlam of Bones is no exception. Readers who enjoyed this novel may also like Ms. Hill's earlier Oughterard Mysteries: A Load of Old Bones, Bones in the Belfry, Bone Idle, and Bones in High Places. Unfortunately, she has announced that this is the last of this series and she will shortly be starting a new mystery series with different characters.