Wings of angels
The Office of the Dead is the third volume in Taylor’s Roth Trilogy, in which his readers come to understand how a little girl evolved into a serial killer. Wendy Appleyard leaves her husband after discovering his infidelity, and, not knowing where to turn, takes refuge with her friend Janet Byfield, now married to a handsome, up and coming C of E clergyman. The Byfields are pleased to welcome Wendy, who can assist Janet in the running of her household, which encompasses their daughter Rosie and Janet’s elderly, rather senile father, Mr. Treevor. Almost immediately, Wendy perceives that all is not well. Mr Treevor engages in some very inappropriate, unsettling behaviors, and five year old Rosie is aloof but precocious. The Reverend Byfield is more concerned with his career than his family, and Janet prefers to downplay the significance of the increasing strangeness that surrounds them.
This is a tautly structured novel which builds, with commendable subtlety, to its unsettling climax only a few pages from the end of the saga. The metaphors that recur throughout the series (the sound of wings, church and domestic architecture, poetry, and biblical quotes, to name a few) serve as omens of things to come, and motifs that seem puzzling in the first volume (The Four Last Things) become clear at last.