It is in truth a most contagious game;
Hiding the Skeleton shall be its name.
- _Modern Love_, George Meredith
Thomas Harding always wanted to own a really old English country house, but he wanted to find it and fix it up himself. Alas, his working habits have brought him not only the money to buy the house, but a coronary thrombosis at 52; when his doctor caught him giving dictation from his bed, Dora Harding had to choose their retirement home without a lot of notice.
Easterbrook Manor in Calleshire, though, has some features the land agents never knew about. While getting the wiring in the drawing room fixed, Thomas figures out that there's Tudor panelling behind the ugly plaster, and a priest's hole behind that. The biggest shock, though, was the skeleton in the plastered-over room. Since it's more than a hundred years old, the Calleshire force (not Inspector Sloan of Berebury, incidentally) aren't officially interested. (They have the murder of a young blonde last week from the church choir to worry about, anyway.) Suddenly Thomas isn't bored at all with country life, and this time Dora can join him in his work.
The Calleshire police, usually represented by Inspector C.D. Sloan, have very little part to play. We're treated to a lot of English village characters from Thomas (ex-City gent)'s point of view. (His reaction to the rector's description of the parish's investments that maintain their charities is really good, especially when his half-hearted protest at being asked to be treasurer is met with a description of the old codger who used to do it.) We're also gently educated on the realities of a priest's life in Tudor England, and the atmosphere of the Napoleonic Wars countryside in which the murder took place. (No flashbacks, just a great storyteller's talent for conveying atmosphere).