The Judgement of Strangers

by Andrew Taylor

Sunday, March 23, 2003

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The second volume in the Roth trilogy really needs to be read as the second volume; although I haven’t read the third yet I’ll issue a warning to all to read these books in order. Without the first volume to lay clues for this book I don’t think it would be nearly as potent at being a thriller. Knowing where the characters end up about a quarter of a century later really adds the edge to this book. As a standalone it wouldn’t be nearly as powerful.

This book takes place in Roth, once a picturesque village and now a suburb of London, in 1970 and is narrated by the vicar of Roth, David Byfield, who appears as a minor character in The Four Last Things. One of the major characters in the first book is Michael Appleyard who appears here as an eleven year old.

This time, although I am wondering what happens in the third part of the trilogy (which goes backwards in time again and Taylor has again left pointers to the kind of thing that will happen in that book and has already happened to the characters), I’m mainly finding myself wanting to go back to the first book and piece together the parts that I didn’t know enough to understand at the time. Having read these books from the library means I’m going to have to go and hunt it out before I can stop thinking about it.

Unless the third volume of the trilogy lets me down, and I can’t see it doing so as it won the CWA’s Ellis Peters Historical Dagger a couple of years back, this is definitely a classic and classy work.