The Anathema Stone

John Buxton Hilton

13 September 2012
208 pages


The Derbyshire village of Spentlow, where Chief Superintendent Kenworthy and his wife had chosen to spend their autumn holiday, was in the grip of celebrations organized by the Vicar to commemorate a remarkable incumbent of a hundred years ago. It was also in the grip of a long-standing feud between two prominent families, the Allsops and the Brightmores, and of the machinations of Davina Stott, a precocious, pretty adolescent, who had a lead part in the centenary celebration play. One evening Kenworthy walked home with her from rehearsal. Next morning her body was found on the Anathema Stone.

The Anathema Stone, round which superstitions clustered, had originally been part of a Bronze Age barrow, but for the last two hundred years it had lain in Farmer Allsop’s yard. Recently a local archaeological society had tried to make him restore it to the original site, and this had sparked off further feuding in the village. In such an atmosphere the local police found it difficult to extract clear and truthful statements about the murder from this closed community. Kenworthy, anxious though he was to help, was made uncomfortably aware that he was an outsider, and worse, the finger of village suspicion was unmistakably pointing at him.

John Buxton Hilton knows his Derbyshire as only the Derbyshire-born can. He also knows how to spin a story remorseless in its unfolding, and alive with vividly drawn characters.