From master of mystery Robert Barnard comes a brilliantly witty and piercingly observant new suspense novel featuring one of the most dysfunctional families ever to grace crime fiction.
Meet the Cantelos of Leeds, England. To call the Cantelos dysfunctional is actually a wild understatement. But is one of them also a killer?
Clarissa Cantelo, a skilled clairvoyant, apparently thought so. Believing that her sixteen-year-old nephew, Merlyn Docherty, was in peril, she sent him into hiding in Italy, far away from the rest of her family. She told them he was dead. It was safer that way.
Now Clarissa herself has died, and Merlyn, a successful lawyer and civil servant who still lives abroad, has returned to Leeds to claim his inheritance. First, he must prove his identity. Is he really Merlyn or, as some of his long-lost relations say they suspect, is he an imposter?
Merlyn doesn't mind confirming his identity, but he'd at least like to move into the house that Aunt Clarissa left him in her will while he gets to know some of his relatives. And the house may hold some clues to the Cantelos' past.
What is the dreadful family secret that has upset relations between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, filling even the youngest generation with fear? If Merlyn discovers the truth, buried under decades of deception, his life may once again be in danger.
Merlyn must start at the beginning if he is to find the answers. All roads seem to lead back to his grandfather, the formidable Merlyn Cantelo, renowned in the family as an object of both fear and loathing.
Though the old man who caused such pain to his family died years ago, his malevolence lives on. Somebody wants young Merlyn gone. With help from police detectives Mike Oddie and Charlie Peace, Merlyn must find that person before the Cantelo curse works its evil again.
Wickedly observant and full of his trademark sly twists, The Graveyard Position proves once more that Robert Barnard is in a class of his own.
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April 26, 2005
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Excerpt from The Graveyard Position by Robert Barnard
The organist was playing yet another slow, amorphous piece, and for the mourners who had taken their pews early, enough was becoming enough. You couldn't expect the relentless cheerfulness of Rossini, but times had changed since the era when you got only the musical equivalent of a thick blackout curtain at funerals.
"So very un-Clarissa," said her niece Rosalind Frere. "Particularly in her earlier years." She gave another of her surreptitious quick glances at arrivals through the main door. "Oh, there's whatsername. Caroline Chaunteley. She never went near Clarissa in her last years, that I do know, though Clarissa was awfully kind to her when she was young...as we all were."
"Nobody went near her in her last years," said Rosalind's husband, Barnett.
"That's not fair! I went as often as I could. We're not a drop-in sort of family -- we keep ourselves to ourselves....I did my best, though she was obviously failing, physically as well as mentally."
"You said she threw a meat pudding at you."
"Well, it was more a sort of gesture, showing she wanted to." The levels of Rosalind's truthfulness were well known to her husband, who merely raised his eyebrows.
"Oh, here's the coffin," said Rosalind brightly.
The music had changed inconspicuously to something with a muffled, marchlike beat and the coffin began up the aisle, borne by a mixture of undertaker's men and relatives.
"Oh look, there's Cousin Malachi. They've put him in the middle, where he can pretend to carry. He's all of a hundred and ten pounds, and short with it. Doesn't he look ridiculous "
"We're lucky he's not wimbly-wambling all over the aisle," said Barnett. "That's what I saw him doing, back and forth across Boar Lane, last Friday night."
"He can't have had a drink yet. It's only half past eleven."
"What a sweet, innocent creature you are," said Barnett, who knew better than most that she was neither.
The coffin seemed to take forever. The organ march went on and on, obviously something that could be stretched to the crack of doom if circumstances demanded it. The bearers shuffled slowly forward, their expression either dour or bored. Cousin Malachi was the only one who let his sharp little eyes stray indiscriminately around the congregation.
"Oh, get a move on," said Rosalind, turning round. "Oh!"
She swiveled her head back to the frontward-looking position.
"What " whispered Barnett.
"Nothing...I must have got it wrong....It can't be."
Her husband always said that her whispers were more powerful than a public-address system, and behind her people reacted: some looked around unashamedly, while others continued looking straight ahead for a second or two, then attempted a slow, casual twist of the head.