Whispers in the VillageBook - 2005
When the rector, Peter, and his wife Caroline, decide to go to Africa for a year to work in a mission, they take their twins with them. The village inhabitants whose lives revolve around the church and this family are bereft. They don't immediately take to the woman locum, Anna, who has modern ideas - happy clappy hymns and so forth - but she does fill the church with parishioners determined to keep an eye on her. And then she brings Paddy, a down and out petty thief, into their midst. He lives at the Rectory and there is speculation as to whose bed he shares. However, Anna is smitten by someone else, but he is a married man.
The Women's Institute comes up with the idea of raising funds for Peter's Mission. There's an upmarket pyjama party, a hair dyeing competition, midnight skinny dipping and an afternoon at the Big House watching horse racing at Longchamps on a huge screen, drinking champagne, with more race money than they dreamed of riding on a horse called Major Malpas.
Peter keeps in touch with the people of Turnham Malpas by email. When a message arrives to tell them that the twins have been kidnapped they are devastated and are more determined than ever to raise a substantial sum for Peter's Mission.
Once again Rebecca Shaw has given us a hugely readable and enjoyable novel. She is a master at mixing pathos with humour and the excitement she instils in this engaging story makes it one of her very best.