The Herefordshire village of Ledwardine was once known for its cider. Now it is a haven for the wealthy. The rich newcomer residents want to attract tourists to the quaint “black and white” village by playing on its heritage. Thus the first Ledwardine Festival is planned, to include a play written by a famous but controversial playwright - and to be staged in the church - on the sad and mysterious tale of Wil Williams, the village’s minister who was accused of being a witch during the late seventeenth century witch-hunts. The real story of Wil Williams, however, is one many of the village’s old families would rather not unveil.
This is the controversy the Reverend Merrily Watkins must deal with on being installed as the new vicar of the village, along with the sexism against female ministers, a haunted house, and a creepy apple orchard. And her troubled fifteen year old daughter.
Tension in the village mounts as Merrily is forced to make a decision about whether to hold the play in the church. Then on the night before the Festival, a local girl disappears, and the the omens in the orchard indicate that deaths will follow.
Rickman is excellent at building the tension in this ghost story and tale of the machinations of small village life. It may be a tame horror story by Laymon standards, but there is certainly enough suspense and mystery to make this a fantastic read.