... beautifully rendered, deeply affecting, thoroughly thoughtful and surprisingly prescient ... In so many ways, this summary might suggest that this is a novel whose contents and relevance to our world are next to nonexistent. On the contrary, this medieval whodunit miraculously captures the otherworldly, fish-out-of-water, discombobulating experience of being a liberal American today ... Harvey’s is a story of suspense, yes. It is a story of a community crowded with shadows and secrets. But to read this novel is to experience a kind of catharsis ... Harvey delivers a singular character at once completely unfamiliar and wholly universal.
Richly immersive ... Harvey delivers with the intelligence and sympathy you would expect from the author of The Wilderness ... Her prose is as rich as ever, her structures clever and efficient. The narrative is an indirect, cumulative revelation of something we half-guessed from the beginning, but which remains shadowy enough that we daren’t put the book down in case we’re proved right ... as densely packed as all of Harvey’s work: it’s a historical novel full of the liveliness and gristle of the period it depicts; an absorbing mystery with an unpredictable flurry of twists in its last few pages; a scarily nuanced examination of a long-term moral collapse; a beautifully conceived and entangled metaphor for Britain’s shifting relationships with Europe. But most of all it’s a deeply human novel of the grace to be found in people.
Another writer might have focused simply on this mystery, perfectly sound material as it is. Harvey, however, wants to dig deeper in her version of Life in a Medieval Village: its monotony, in a bored priest’s recounting of confessions; its superstitions, including the Lenten draping of a Christ figure with a shawl to keep him warm; its amusements, such as the not-so-private lovemaking ... By the time we find out how Tom Newman died, we’re less interested in a mystery solved and more intrigued by the fate of a long-gone place, a place that Harvey brings to life from its historical tomb.