‘The Judgement of Strangers’ is the second book in Andrew Taylor’s Roth Trilogy. The first book is ‘The Four Last Things’ and the third is ‘The Office of the Dead’. I am reading them in order and have found that information in ‘The Four Last Things’ has added a lot to this book, but the same would probably apply in reverse if you read this book first.
In ‘The Four Last Things’ we met Rosemary Byfield, her father David, Michael Appleyard and Audrey Oliphant. In this book we go back twenty years to 1970 and find out some of the events that led to ‘The Four Last Things’.
David Byfield is the vicar of Roth and has been widowed for 10 years when he meets Vanessa. He marries her with the expectation of improving his sex life. His teenage daughter Rosemary appears to be OK with the marriage, but there are problems just beneath the surface. In addition, one of his parishioners, Audrey Oliphant, had hidden hopes for developing her own relationship with David. Then David’s godson, Michael Appleyard, comes to stay for a few weeks.
Roth is an ex-village that has been absorbed by the growth of London, so it has elements of both village and suburb. The last of the Youlgreave family is still alive and living in the manor house, and still trying to hide the secrets of her ancestor, the deranged and sadistic priest and poet – Francis Youlgreave. Then the crumbling mansion – Roth Park is bought by the Cliffords, a hippy brother and sister with plans for the future.
Then a series of bizarre events occur, including murders, mutilations, affairs and property destruction, that change the lives of everyone involved.
This book was really creepy and a perfect prequel to ‘The Four Last Things’. It was interesting to see some of the same characters in a different setting. David Byfield seems to have none of the maturity and confidence in this book that he later develops, but it’s easy to see how both Rosemary and Audrey go on to develop their later personas.
This book set things up perfectly for the last book in the trilogy – ‘The Office of the Dead’ which goes back even further in time. I’m hoping to read it soon.
Book Published 1998