Villainy At Vespers (1949) by Joan Cockin

Inspector Cam was looking forward to a peaceful summer holiday in Cornwall with his family. He wasn’t expecting the church in the town of Trevelly to contain the naked dead body of an unknown man, apparently ritually sacrificed. Initially reluctant to get involved – he is on holiday after all – he soon realises that the local constabulary are far too focussed on one suspect, someone who’s guilt Cam is far from certain of.

When a second death occurs and a third murder is attempted, it seems that this is far more complicated that a case of the theft of the church silver, or even a simple case of devil worship. As Cam uncovers a criminal conspiracy, can he find the murderer amidst a maze of misdirections?

Book club time and everyone loves this book. To quote Kate – “I had so much fun reading and pleasure reading this book”. To quote Brad – “In the end, I enjoyed this book for its charming sleuth and its humor, as well as for the way it offers a different picture of an English village from what Golden Age authors gave us”. To quote Jim – “where this really excels is in capturing pen portraits of both people and place with the incisive wit of Edmund Crispin

Ah, dear reader, you know where this is going, don’t you?

To be fair, the descriptions and characters of post-war village life are fascinating, definitely the book’s strength. The problem was that for a book that is supposed to be witty, I don’t think I ever actually found it amusing. It’s an odd thing where you can see the attempts at wit – Keeping Up Appearances springs to mind – but it seems to be completely out of synch with your own sense of humour.

So overall, to me, reading this felt like wading through treacle in search of a plot – and there’s the problem, the plot just isn’t that interesting. I can think of much better books that tend to favour description over plot – Rhode’s Death In The Hopfields and Lorac’s Fell Murder – I think it’s the “humour” that is the problem here.

Tell you what, why not go read those other reviews? They exposit the strengths and, to be fair, weaknesses, far better than I can be bothered to. This book has taken up far too much of my time already…


  1. I was glad to read a review which mirrored so many of my doubts. Some really good reviews from very respected people made me wonder if I should reread this ( aagh). In addition I would like to see a limit on the amount of dialect allowed ( Cornish /Manx etc etc ) .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No, thanks – you’ve convinced me. Those other bloggers must be crazy!!! 😜

    Seriously, though, you won’t get much argument from me at Book Club. The mystery lands with a thud at the end after a journey that seems way too long. Still, I stand by
    My quote (see above) about the charming, funny sleuth and a truly interesting depiction of village life during and immediately after the war.


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