Joan Brooks has settled lately in a picture-perfect village as the secretary of Lady D’Arcy. The village is beautiful: It was enfolded in a hollow of the Downs, and wrapped up snugly—first, in a floral shawl of gardens, and then, in a great green shawl of fields. Lilies and lavender grew in abundance. Bees clustered over sweet-scented herbs with the hum of a myriad spinning-wheels.
The villagers live in great harmony, throwing garden parties and generally being merry under the benevolent eye of Miss Decima Asprey, the queen of the village. The Rector of the village who had come to it a few years earlier thinks that the village reflects all that is good and right in the world.
When the novel opens, Joan is being visited by a friend, a novelist, from London. Both find each other changed but are determined to enjoy their time together. While returning the novelist jests that this pristine village is actually sinister: a very much in love respectable couple are actually not married, the doctor who is fond of his wife is actually poisoning her, the Rector throws wild parties, and that saint like Miss Asprey is actually a sadist who tortures her helps. Joan laughs it off though she feels offended at her paradise being mocked so.
However, soon Miss Asprey receives an anonymous letter accusing her of of what the novelist had hinted. And this is just the beginning. Soon anonymous, poisonous letters are circulating in the village accusing the denizens of what the novelist had hinted. The bonhomie disappears as each person becomes suspicious of his neighbour and when a murder occurs, the threat cannot be denied any longer. The Rector calls his friend Ignatius Brown to solve the mystery. Brown soon finds out that all the villagers have something to hide, including Joan with whom the Rector is in love…
While good in parts, this novel was overall a drag. Too many descriptive passage took away the tautness needed in a mystery novel. And the village began to irritate me with its very complacency. Nevertheless, White remains a favourite and I am keen to read more of her works.
First Line: The village was beautiful.
Title: Fear Stalks the Village
Author: Ethel Lina White
First Published: 1932
Source: Downloaded free from Project Gutenberg Australia
Other books read of the same author: Some Must Watch, She Faded into Air, The Wheel Spins
Entry for Friday’s Forgotten Books, today @ In Reference to Murder