A Hovering of Vultures

Robert Barnard

20 December 2012
198 pages


Susannah Sneddon had never received a great deal of fame or fortune from her novel-writing in the twenties and thirties. In the remote Yorkshire village of Micklewike, where she had lived on a run-down farm, she was now chiefly remembered for the violence of her demise – battered to death, apparently by her jealous brother, who then shot himself. That was back in 1932, and now there was a renewed surge of interest in the Sneddons, led by the shady publisher and entrepreneur Gerald Suzman. He had bought up the farm and formed the Sneddon Fellowship, with the declared aim of making the Sneddons’ reputation as a kind of twentieth-century Brontë family.

A motley collection of enthusiasts gathered in Micklewike for the inaugural meeting of the Sneddon Fellowship, including Charlie Peace, a young black detective constable sent to keep an eye on things. There was a suspicion that Suzman’s motives were not quite as purely literary as they seemed. And when Suzman was found lying dead with his head bashed in, a surprising number of possible reasons for his death emerged amongst the group of Sneddon followers.

Charlie and Superintendent Mike Oddie had to examine evidence both old and new as the strange case of the Sneddon literary heritage was gradually unravelled.

‘One of the deftest stylists in the field’ New York Times Book Review

‘This story is a beauty . . . enlivened by Barnard’s wit and his knowledge of the seedier side of literary affairs’ Birmingham Post