Cheating the Hangman

Written by Judith Cutler
Review by Nancy Henshaw

Tobias Campion, riding through the woods, comes upon a gruesome rotting corpse whose murder demonstrates hatred and contempt. He must investigate this horrific occurrence before the burial can take place. The estranged son of a Duke, Tobias is Rector of Moreton St Jude’s, and pride in his calling includes the greatest possible generosity towards those of his flock who live in poverty. His own parish is idyllic compared to the dreadful village of Clavercote, where disease and infant mortality are rampant amongst near-starving folk without hope. Even their priest has deserted them to take spa cures in Europe. The unlucky Tobias is instructed to take over this God-forsaken village, and when visiting, he narrowly escapes lynching by a mob reduced to savagery. With rumours of orgies and witchcraft in the local great houses, Tobias, with his admirable housekeeper Mrs Trent and medical friends Doctors Edmund Walton and Augustus Toone, must alleviate the worst abuses in Clavercote while proceeding with their investigation into the murder and seeing justice done.

Do not miss one word when reading this elegant, faultlessly edited, sometimes terrifying and hugely entertaining novel, which deserves high praise for a wonderful but unsparing picture of country life in the early 19th century. Tobias has a host of devotees: a clever, attractive and beguiling young man whose naturally fiery temperament wrestles with humility.