Requiem for an Angel is subtitled “The Secret History of a Murderer”; it is also known as the Roth Trilogy.
The Four Last Things is a psychological thriller set in the present day (late 90s, when it was written). Four-year-old Lucy Appleyard is abducted in London by the dimwitted Eddie. We follow her mother, the Rev. Sally Appleyard, as she disintegrates. Her husband, Michael, is the godson of David Byfield. We also follow Eddie who comes to realize that his partner Angel is quite terrifying.
The Judgement of Strangers‘s opening line is “We found the mutilated corpse of Lord Peter in the early evening of Thursday the 13th August, 1970.” It appears, at first, to be an Agatha Christiesque romp, narrated by the Rev. David Byfield, the vicar of Roth. But Christie’s heyday is long past and Roth is a former village, now a dormitory town for London; there are teenage louts swilling cider on the village green; and the manor house is bought by rich hippies. David, a sexually frustrated widower, and his teenaged daughter, Rosemary, get caught up in events.
In The Office of the Dead, the narrator, Wendy Appleyard, leaves her husband. and goes to stay with her old friend Janet Byfield in the cathedral town of Rosington. It is 1958 and David is attached to the Theological College; Rosie is only four. They are soon joined by Mr Treevor, Janet’s half-senile father. In the gothic precincts of Cathedral Close, strange things are happening: mutilated birds, bad smells, a mysterious man asking questions. Wendy becomes obsessed with Francis Youlgreave, a disgraced priest and drug-addled poet, who died half a century before.
Each of the three books can stand by itself (I originally read the last book some time ago). Each book provides backstory to its predecessor, unfolding a tragedy in reverse. We see England in three very different decades and different locales, the traditional cathedral town, the changing village, the squalor of contemporary London. We see the foundering fortunes of the Church of England, its decline is becoming apparent even in 1958. We watch the unravelling of the Byfields and the Appleyards. Most of all, we are caught up in the suspense of each book.