The Wages of Desire

Written by Stephen Kelly
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

In the Hampshire village of Winstead in 1942, a young woman is found shot to death in a cemetery. Inspector Lamb investigates. The woman, a former conscientious objector, was working on a nearby farm being renovated into a POW camp. Next, during the digging of a foundation at this farm, children’s skeletons are uncovered. Twenty years earlier, a woman had hanged herself after her husband and twin boys vanished.

Vera, Lamb’s driver after he injures his ankle, is also his daughter. She finds herself involved in the mystery when she meets a young girl who wanders the village at night while her mother works at a factory. The girl tells Vera about the odd characters that populate Winstead, including two menacing brothers who once lived at the farm. The vicar who discovered the body in the cemetery is also a suspect, and is carrying on his own devious plans that include his despised wife and a former lover. Lamb, with the help of Vera, pieces together the past crime with the present, a twisted, sinister scenario. Evil lurks in the village, and both their lives are in danger.

The story kept me involved, though it’s too wordy and repetitive at times. It reminded me of an old-fashioned mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie mixed with the TV series Foyle’s War (a favorite of mine). The village characters stand out, each with their own quirky personalities. The horrible crimes involving the children are cringe-worthy. Lamb is enigmatic, and I wanted to know more about his personal life. Vera stands on the brink of realizing her own strengths in this interesting series. The novel holds plenty of surprises to please mystery fans.