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The Office of the Dead (The Roth Trilogy) [Paperback]

Andrew Taylor
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Sep 2000 The Roth Trilogy

Final novel in Andrew Taylor’s powerful Roth Trilogy: ‘With all due deference to its heavenly virtues, this is a hellishly good novel’ – Frances Fyfield, Sunday Express

Janet Byfield has everything Wendy Appleyard lacks: she’s beautiful; she has a handsome husband, a clergyman on the verge of promotion; and most of all she has an adorable little daughter, Rosie. So when Wendy’s life falls apart, it’s to her oldest friend, Janet, that she turns.
At first it seems as to Wendy as though nothing can touch the Byfields’ perfect existence in 1950s Cathedral Close, Rosington, but old sins gradually come back to haunt the present, and new sins are bred in their place. The shadow of death seeps through the Close, and only Wendy, the outsider looking in, is able to glimpse the truth. But can she grasp it’s twisted logic in time to prevent a tragedy whose roots lie buried deep in the past?

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The Office of the Dead (The Roth Trilogy) + The Judgement of Strangers (The Roth Trilogy)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (4 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006496555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006496557
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 2.8 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 433,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Taylor is a British crime and historical novelist, winner of the Cartier Diamond Dagger (for lifelong excellence in the genre) and many other awards. His books include the international bestseller, The American Boy (a Richard and Judy selection); the Roth Trilogy (filmed for TV as Fallen Angel); The Anatomy of Ghosts, shortlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year; The Scent of Death, winner of the Historical Dagger; and The Scent of Death.

He is also the author of three Kindle Singles novellas - Broken Voices; The Leper House; and The Scratch.

He lives on the borders of England and Wales. He is the Spectator's crime fiction reviewer.

For more information about Andrew Taylor and his books, see:

Follow on twitter: @andrewjrtaylor

Product Description

Amazon Review

There are thrillers in which the use of language is pared down and functional to ensure the swiftest possible movement of the plot. But some writers have demonstrated that it is possible to utilise prose of the most elegant and sophisticated variety without sacrificing one iota of the riveting narrative quality. Andrew Taylor is one of the finest stylists in the genre, and remarkable pieces of work such as The Barred Window have made his books essential reading for the most discerning of crime enthusiasts.

The Office of The Dead, third in the Roth trilogy (The Four Last Things and The Judgement of Strangers), links the histories of two families, the Appleyards and the Byfields. It's England circa 1958 and Wendy Appleyard is in deep trouble. She's facing divorce with no money or work experience, so she looks to her oldest friend, Janet Byfield, for assistance. Unlike Wendy, Janet appears to be enjoying everything that life can offer: a good-looking husband, a loving daughter and an exquisite home in the Cathedral Close of Rosington. Her husband is an ambitious young clergyman, on the verge of promotion.

But there is the worm in the rosy bud: sins of the past begin to make a devastating claim on the present, and death comes to the Close, along with a mystery that reaches back to the previous century involving an ill-fated poet priest and opium addict called Francis Youlgreave. Wendy, as the outsider in this close-knit community, begins to suspect the truth about the dark secrets around her, and finds herself having to unlock a double mystery.

Taylor's theme, as in so much serious literature, is the inexorable hold that the past has over the present--and this is rendered in language of the most thoughtful and exuberant kind:

My mother thought Hillgard House would make me a lady. My father thought it would get me out of the way for most of the year. He was right and she was wrong. We didn't learn to be young ladies at Hillgard House--we learnt to be little savages in a jungle presided over by remote predators.
--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


‘Masterly… will have the reader turning back to check the identities of Taylor’s ambiguous characters and relish his fine writing’
Gerald Kaufman, Scotsman

‘It is in the domestic sphere that Taylor triumphs… A highly sinister piece of work Natasha Cooper, TLS

‘The writing is consistenly good’
Sunday Times

‘The intellect and the imagination are seized… Andrew Taylor has brought a major literary undertaking to a deeply satisfying conclusion’
James Melville, Ham & High

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By elkiedee VINE VOICE
Wendy runs away from her unfaithful husband and takes refuge with an old schoolfriend in a small cathedral town. She takes a job in the cathedral library and starts to uncover some past secrets. But where she's living, a family tragedy is unfolding.
It takes a while for it to become apparent why this is a kind of psychological mystery but it's beautifully written. It's a historical novel set in the recent past of the 1950s, a period Andrew Taylor has also chosen for his Lydmouth series.
I was impressed that he was able to capture a female narrative voice I found so convincing, and found this a compelling read.
It is the last book in a trilogy that goes back in time, and is intended to follow THE FOUR LAST THINGS and JUDGEMENT OF THE DEAD, though it works fine as a standalone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great trilogy 12 Jun 2014
By Sisa
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have very much enjoyed this trilogy, it's something very different to what I'd normally choose but all the more interesting for it. I'd recommend it. Not easy to read but well write so actually draws you in quite easily
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By netty
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Third book I have read in the series, but almost as if you should read them the other way around, 3, 2 then 1. Full of suspense, but wish the loose ends tied up. Having said that I enjoyed reading all three books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing work 29 July 2000
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
In 1958, Wendy Appleyard feels like life is over for her at the ripe old age of twenty-six. She is broke with no job yet is thinking of divorcing Henry, her husband of five years after seeing him humping a wealthy widow. Desperate, Wendy turns to her long-time friend, Janet Byfield for solace and a bit of security as she tries to turn her life around.

From Wendy's perspective, Janet lives the perfect life in Rosington with her happy marriage to devastatingly handsome clergyman David and their precious daughter Rosie. However, perfection is in the eyes of the beholder. Instead, former transgressions surface that lead to new misdeeds. Death has arrived in this small cathedral city and only Wendy, not being part of the community, begins to see the links to the late 1890s and a fifteenth century witch burning. However, will she fully understand what is happening in time to stop a future calamity?

THE OFFICE OF THE DEAD, the third tale in Andrew Taylor's chilling Roth Trilogy (see the exciting THE FOUR LAST THINGS and THE JUDGEMENT OF STRANGERS) is an enjoyable village mystery. The story line centers on how the past, even the distant centuries, retain a grip on the present and future. The characters seem real and the mysteries are exhilarating. However, it is Mr. Taylor's ability to use beautiful prose to invoke imagery that entices the audience into thinking about their own links to the past that makes him so good and this trilogy worth reading.

Harriet Klausner
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 1st is last & the last is 1st 21 May 2007
By Neal J. Pollock - Published on
This is the 3rd book of Andrew Taylor's self-described Roth trilogy. The books are rather loosely connected, though David Byfield does appear in all 3 volumes as do references to the deceased Canon Francis Youlgreave. The 3 are arranged in reverse chronological order (with decades between them) which does add a dash of the unusual to it, but I think I'd rather read them in chronological order (the 3rd read 1st, the 1st read 3rd). Otherwise, this final work loses much of its mystery. Indeed, the 1st two volumes are more horror/thriller than mystery IMHO. The 3rd work (this one) however, is a good mystery--I liked it best of the three. Interestingly, the 1st & 3rd volumes have female protagonists. This book (as opposed to the others) has many endearing characters such as Wendy Appleyard & her friend Janet Byfield. The ending is more subtle in this book & some of Wendy's conclusions are circumstantial & debatable IMHO. The killer is discernable if one has read the 2nd volume beforehand. Some of the strange elements of the prior two volumes are implied in the 3rd volume.

Throughout the trilogy, Taylor writes beautifully & includes pithy descriptions & observations such as:

p. 251: "His idea of a heart-to-heart chat is to ask you if it's stopped raining yet. [of David Byfield]

p. 275: He'd have tried to talk to a Trappist monk. [of Henry Appleyard]

p. 299: Time doesn't heal, it just gives you other things to think about. [by Wendy Appleyard]

p. 301: She could had blighted a field of potatoes just by looking at it." [of Granny Byfield]

I especially liked pp. 98-9: Canon Osbaston's humorous dinner party.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wings of angels 1 Jan 2010
By Linda Pagliuco - Published on
The Office of the Dead is the third volume in Taylor's Roth Trilogy, in which his readers come to understand how a little girl evolved into a serial killer. Wendy Appleyard leaves her husband after discovering his infidelity, and, not knowing where to turn, takes refuge with her friend Janet Byfield, now married to a handsome, up and coming C of E clergyman. The Byfields are pleased to welcome Wendy, who can assist Janet in the running of her household, which encompasses their daughter Rosie and Janet's elderly, rather senile father, Mr. Treevor. Almost immediately, Wendy perceives that all is not well. Mr Treevor engages in some very inappropriate, unsettling behaviors, and five year old Rosie is aloof but precocious. The Reverend Byfield is more concerned with his career than his family, and Janet prefers to downplay the significance of the increasing strangeness that surrounds them.

This is a tautly structured novel which builds, with commendable subtlety, to its unsettling climax only a few pages from the end of the saga. The metaphors that recur throughout the series (the sound of wings, church and domestic architecture, poetry, and biblical quotes, to name a few) serve as omens of things to come, and motifs that seem puzzling in the first volume (The Four Last Things) become clear at last.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! 8 Mar 2009
By A. Cooper - Published on
The last of the Roth Trilogy, many things come together while some are still left a bit open ended. Each book kept my attention the entire time and I found it difficult to put them down. Definitely A+++, highly recommended. I just purchased two more books by Andrew Taylor and I cannot wait to receive them!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow read 19 Nov 2013
By M. Poller - Published on
I enjoyed the earlier books by Taylor which were quite charming as i recall. This is the only book in the series I've read so have no knowledge of the others. Wendy and Janet met in a boarding school during WW2 and became close friends. Years later Wendy has decided to divorce her husband and her friend Janet and husband want her to come to them to recover. But their home is very tense with a senile father who seems to be doing things to the little 5 year old daughter that is not understood at that time. wendy is hired to catalog the theological library and gets involved in a mystery about a previous librarian who was hounded from the community of priests. None of this held my interest. On top of that, Wendy is a smoker and drinker. So the first 300+ pages are a slow introduction to the main action of the final 100 pages. The preparation to this is much too lengthy. Several of the facts that Wendy was searching for such as what happened to a sister of one of the people just are popped out at the end and while surprising just don't come about naturally. We are left to make our own deductions which are rather obvious.
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