Andrew Taylor, The Mortal Sickness
Andrew Taylor is a much admired and talented crime writer. This is the second in the Lydmouth series with an appreciation by H R F Keating that compared Taylor to PD James – famous the rendering of the murder mystery into such classics as “A Taste for Death”.
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Andrew Taylor is a much admired and talented crime writer. Since the publication of his crime books such as – The Barred Window (1993), The Roth Trilogy (1997-2000) and American Boy (2003) – Taylor has shown that British crime fiction can in range and power occupy the ground of the best literature. Since Andrew Taylor started publishing as a young man – and even the early books showed exceptional talent and ambition – it is not unlikely that he may soon be considered as perhaps the brightest as well as the most productive crime writer of his generation.
For the crime buff what makes Taylor an interesting and desirable author to collect is his obvious delight and energy at reconfiguring the crime genre. In the early 1980s when he began detective or crime fiction in Britain was a regarded by many critics as a stereotypical popular genre akin to adventure yarns and thrillers. Obviously, one can point to exceptions such as P D James, Reginald Hill and Ruth Rendell. But even they for many years remained within the convention and format of the genre. And so it was with Andrew Taylor. He first book introduced the sleuthing detective William Dougal, a protagonist you were not quite sure about. He now has five series and several tense, stand-alone thrillers – from spy fiction, historical mysteries, psychological tales and five Bergerac books. This is the second in the Lydmouth series set in a fictional locality – partly rural, partly town and loosely based on the Forest of Dean locale where Taylor has lived for many years. The leisurely pace and the gentle exploration of period setting and social attitudes are the main attraction of this murder mystery, which is also a why-dunnit.
Plotline: Ever since Agatha Christie, small English villages have been haunted by murder most foul, disturbing the peace and quiet of the countryside, upsetting the vicar’s wife, and lifting the edge of the lace curtains to show the darker sides of the eccentric inhabitants. So it is again with Andrew Taylor’s tale of a woman murdered in the church vestry, apparently during the theft of a medieval chalice. The village’s dirty secrets come gradually to light, in spite of the rather unskilled detective work of the distracted policeman leading the investigation and a nice but not terribly bright young newspaper reporter, who also provides some romantic tension.
The Mortal Sickness (1995) was issued in an edition of 75 signed and numbered copies and a small number of presentation copies. It contained an appreciation by H R F Keating that compared Taylor to PD James – famous for rendering the murder mystery into such classics as A Taste for Death.