When Lord Furnival, a left-of-centre dilettante, tries to stage a musical version of the Oberammergau Passion Play in the High Peak of Derbyshire, he does not foresee what strife and tension he is setting in motion. Petty thefts, a peeping Tom, artistic jealousies, a vendetta against Mary Magdalene – the record of crime culminates in the murder of the hyped rock singer who is brought out of disgraced retirement to play the Christ part.
Kenworthy is called in as a private consultant to ‘protect the interests of the management’ and finds himself involved with a bewildering array of eccentrics: Jimmy Lindop, a sound technician with old scores to settle; Julian Harpur, a neurotic adolescent whose mother believes him a genius; Alfie Tandy, who has confessed to dozens of murders in his time, and who carries his worldly belongings about in an old banjo-case; Freddy Kershaw, a detective-constable who is suspended from duty for telling the truth; and Joan Culver, who is trying to straighten herself out about filial duty, sex and life.
This is knotty a puzzle as Kenworthy and his reader have ever squared up to, as the case-work takes us out of Derbyshire into the squalid history of The Stalagmites, a failed rock group of London’s swinging years. On the way we take a Hiltonian look at more than one level of contemporary society.