It is good to find a crime novel that is not urban police procedural/forensic pathology-based and which shuns graphic descriptions of brutality, often of torture. In other ways,too, this first novel is strikingly original, most particularly in developing the story through two interweaving narratives and in placing the events in a rural setting in the past. In addition the central character, the new incumbent as rector of a small Suffolk village community, is a convincingly odious character: self-absorbed, snobbish, envious and hypocritical. Ann Marten also begins as an interesting character, slowly exposing the secrets which help to advance the story. All indeed starts most promisingly. However, although in many ways I enjoyed this novel I can't quite go along with the rave reviews it seems to have attracted. It seems to me to weaken over the second half. Ann Marten loses her distinctive, largely self-educated style of utterance and falls into a neutral, rapid relaying of events. Inevitably, perhaps, the ending is all rather predictable and is not helped, I feel, by the broad melodrama - however characteristically Victorian. There are certainly no red herrings in Ms. Dugdall's sea. I would have liked to see her keep the reader guessing more, even throwing in a few false trails and surprises in the manner of Ann Cleeves, for example. Nonetheless, the strong sense of time and place and the willingness to stray from the well-trodden paths of detective fiction encourage looking forward to the author's next offering.