Lloyd & Hill Books
- Unlucky For Some
- Births, Deaths and   Marriages/Death in the Family
- Scene of Crime
- Picture of Innocence
- Plots and Errors
- A Shred of Evidence
- Verdict Unsafe
- The Other Woman
- Murder...Now and Then
- The Murders of Mrs.Austin and   Mrs.Beale
- Redemption/Murder at the Old   Vicarage
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- Death of a Dancer/Gone to Her   Death
- A Perfect Match
Other Books
- Record of Sin
- An Evil Hour
- The Stalking Horse
- Murder Movie
Writing as Elizabeth Chaplin
- Hostage to Fortune
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REDEMPTION (Lloyd and Hill #2)
(US title: Murder at the Old Vicarage) Macmillan, London (1988)/St Martin's Press, NY (1989)

My fifth novel, published Macmillan, London 1988/St Martin’s Press, NY as MURDER AT THE OLD VICARAGE 1989. Hardback, paperback, large print, Soundings Audio Book (unabridged).

A white Christmas. Deepening snow isolated the village from the outside world. By the time the body in the vicarage was discovered, Byford was cut off altogether.

It was, it seemed, a domestic murder. In fact Chief Inspector Lloyd thought it would be an open and shut case. But it turned out to be as complex and perplexing as his relationship with Sergeant Judy Hill.

And both of them seemed to be slipping from his grasp…

Why the return to Lloyd and Hill?
Two reasons. One was that they had stayed with me. Usually when a book is written, the characters hang around for a little while then begin to fade away, but I kept thinking about Lloyd and Hill, and I knew quite a lot about the Judy/Michael/Lloyd triangle that hadn’t appeared in A Perfect Match. I wanted to continue their story. The other reason was more basic. Everyone I met said that their favourite book was A Perfect Match, and it’s a bit discouraging to be told that your first book was your best! I began to realise that the advice I had been given – that the premise wouldn’t sustain a series – might be wrong.

Why the change of title for the US?
My American editor said that enigmatic titles like Redemption didn’t go down very well in the States, so he wanted to change it to Murder at the Old Vicarage. I said that I didn’t mind a title change, but that he couldn’t possibly call it that – for one thing Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage was too well known just to stick the word ‘old’ into it, and for another it was a terrible title. He said that the word ‘vicarage’ would sell it in the US, and paid me more to let him call it that, so I immediately capitulated, of course. I still think it’s a terrible title, but he was proved right – it was more successful in the States than any of my previous books had been. But I did recently read an American review of it which said that ‘by her very title McGown is stating her intention to challenge Christie at her own game’, and it isn’t my title, honestly – it isn’t!

But you were challenging Christie at her own game?
Not challenging, no. It was a homage to Agatha. I nicked one of her plot devices, and I wanted to acknowledge that in the book. I thought that one way of doing that would be to use her kind of setting, so that she could be mentioned in the dialogue. So I set it in a snowbound vicarage at Christmas and gave it a modern and decidedly uncosy twist. I’ve seen it described as a ‘cosy’ in the US – that worries me a bit!

Do you know the first thing about Church of England vicars?
No – is it that obvious? Sorry. But I do know that most of them have at least two parishes to serve, as one cross reviewer rightly pointed out. I had to let mine have the luxury of just one – and I did mention that he was lucky in this regard – as there would be no fictional purpose served by sticking to reality. The vicar just came into my head one night, arguing with his daughter, whom he loved, about her husband, whom he loathed because he was a wife-beater. Once I’d got him and his daughter, I had to write about them, whether or not I knew anything about Church of England vicars. I figured they were just people, after all was said and done.

Where did the plot come from?
A joke, which Lloyd tells right at the end. I had heard it years before, and saw how it could be the plot of a whodunit, as a lot of jokes could. Most jokes rely upon the listener drawing a wrong conclusion, which is why the punch-line is funny, and most classic whodunits rely on exactly the same thing. Once the rest of the vicar’s family began to evolve, I realised that my ‘joke’ plot had come into its own. What I borrowed from Agatha wasn’t the plot itself, but a plot device – a way of distracting the reader from what was really going on, and it was that plot device that reminded me of the ‘joke’ plot. Everything just seemed to fall into place – this was the easiest of all the Lloyd and Hills to write.

But did it work?
Yes, it did, and a lot of people list it as their favourite Lloyd and Hill, which is nice. One reviewer on a Mystery Readers site loathed it, which is fine, but then she had the nerve to say that I had ‘several times portrayed the murderer worrying that one of the other suspects was guilty’, which of course I had not. I wrote to her pointing out that I had merely allowed the reader to jump to that conclusion and that I had subsequently explained what the murderer was actually worrying about. She replied saying that allowing her to jump to conclusions was just as bad. I can’t imagine why she reads whodunits at all if she doesn’t want to be misled! That sort of uninformed criticism is something I can do without, but mostly it’s confined to the free-for-all Web, so can be safely ignored.

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