Best known for her "Brother Cadfael" series, Ellis Peters (1913-1985) was also the author of thirteen novels featuring Inspector George Felse. Published in 1965, A NICE DERANGEMENT OF EPITAPHS is the fourth novel in that series. Like most of Peters' work, it is a lightly written, enjoyable read.
The story itself finds Inspector Felse, his wife Bunty, and their just-adult son Dominic on a seaside vacation--where they encounter Simon Towne, well known author and lecturer. Towne is present to open the tomb of Jan Treverra, a locally legendary figure who died in the late 1700s and whose crypt may include important writings. But when the Treverra vault is opened, Towne and his assistants find more bodies than they expect.
Peters often elected to work with highly contrived plots, and this is particularly true of EPITAPHS. At one point, Peters has one of her characters comment that the twists and turns of the case are so ridiculous that not even a novelist could get away with them! And it is true that most readers will see each major plot device in the offing long before it appears on the page. When the author writes more for amusement than mystery, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and Peters handles the most blatant aspects of her plot with considerable humor.
Unfortunately, however, the plot is not only contrived: it is extremely transparent. Any mystery reader worth the name will probably spot the killer by the fourth chapter because of the manner in which Peters sets up her tale. Although it is a quick, amusing, and painless read, this is really one of Peters' weaker efforts. Fans will enjoy it, but few will put it on the "must keep" shelf of their bookcase.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer