A ghost story from an author who never fails to please me. I missed this book when it first came out, probably because it was not one of his medieval mysteries. (I never miss those!)
Paul Doherty is a Roman Catholic and his familiarity with the Roman rites frequently displays itself in his stories. This is the first time, though, that the protagonist has been a Catholic priest functioning as a priest. My favourite Brother Athelstan is, of course, a priest, but he functions as a detective, a sleuth, like Chesterton’s Father Brown.
Father Oliver Grafeld is not a detective. He is an exorcist, albeit a reluctant one. He is sent by his superior, Archbishop Manning, to Candleton Hall, a manor house in the country belonging to an old Catholic family – one of those families that simply ducked when the Reformation occurred under King Henry VIII and carried on century after century as though nothing had happened. Oh yes, they made one small adjustment: they had secret chambers where priests could be concealed built into their great houses.
And thereby hangs a tale. This tale. For the chatelaine of Candleton Hall in the time of Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII, was Lady Isabella Seaton, who was neither Catholic nor Protestant, but a Satanist. And when she died, she had no intention of letting any subsequent chatelaine take her place …
Father Oliver and his sister Emma are great characters, but so far as I can tell Paul Doherty has written no sequel to this story. Which is a shame.