Unholy Rites by Kay Stewart and Chris Bullock

Unholy Rites is a mystery novel set in the Derbyshire village of Mill-on-Wye, a fictionalized representation of Miller’s Dale, in the 1990s. The action takes place in the weeks leading up to and during the village’s annual Well Dressing Festival, which forms a colourful backdrop to the events of the story. Danutia Dranchuk, a junior detective with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, appears in her third novel, followingt A Deadly Little List (NeWest Press, 2005) and Sitting Lady Sutra (TouchWood Editions, 2012).

Visiting Derbyshire on a fact-finding mission relating to the treatment of young offenders, Danutia meets an old friend and is asked to look into the death of his mother. She is soon drawn into the investigation of an intricate web of crimes with strong elements of witchcraft and satanism.

The authors have researched their background material in depth and quite accurately which lends a vivid local colour to the tale, although the authenticity is slightly marred by various Americanisms that appear in the mouths of supposedly local characters – “condos” instead of “flats” or “apartments” for example. However, if this minor defect can be overlooked, there is plenty here to interest and absorb the reader. The suspense builds nicely towards the end of the book as, after an unexpected twist of the plot, the heroine becomes involved in a race against time to save the lives of her friend and a young boy. All in all, a worthy example of its genre and a very good read.

-Glyn Williams