This would have been a couple of weeks ago – if it wasn’t for the pesky end of the month, because it was inspired by the first book I’m going to talk about and then spun me off into a series I love post for a series I’d forgotten all about! You wouldn’t think that a vicar solving mysteries would be a thing, and then you remember Father Brown and realise that you’re being a bit stupid! Vicars or vicar’s spouses are in a perfect position to try and solve murders – they have an excuse for being nosy and getting involved in the aftermath of a sudden death.
Murder before Evensong by the Reverend Richard Coles
Former Communard turned Vicar and Strictly contestant, Reverend Richard Coles’ debut crime novel is features a body in a church in the aftermath of a proposal to install a toilet in the church. It’s not entirely clear at the start when the story is set, which made for a bit of confusion for me when references popped up to Tenko and To the Manor Born and was finally cleared up (for me at least) as being 1988 because of a reference to Celine Dion winning Eurovision! It’s an enjoyable read with a lot of fun village characters and a good mystery. I think it would appeal to people who enjoyed Richard Osman’s novels – but if you’ve ever been involved in church life or a PCC then this will have an extra level of enjoyment for you too.
The Max Tudor series by G M Maliet
I’ve mentioned the Max Tudor series here before, but it has been a while. Max is a former MI5 agent who has become a vicar and across the seven book series solves murders in his parish and then in the surrounding area, helping out the local police. There’s a running romantic plot strand and a cast of regular characters in the village too. I’ve read all seven, mostly in a paperback editions via the library or The Works, so I’m not sure how easy they are to find in bookshops at the moment – but they’re easy to get hold of on kindle.
The Ministry is Murder series by Emilie Richards
Now these are likely to be the hardest to get hold of in the UK – because they’re older, not on kindle and as far as I can tell only come in US mass market paperback format, but I like them a lot so I’m including them. oh and they’re a bit of a cheat because Aggie Sloan Wilcox is the vicar’s wife, but hey, all the action in the ones I’ve read revolves around the church and it’s congregation. Aggie’s husband made church is in a small town in Ohio and she gets involved in solving her first murder because he’s a suspect. Aggie – real name Agate – has an eccentric mother amongst the supporting cast as well as the parishioners. I’ve read three of the five – and the series has provided my Ohio book in the 50 States challenge the last few years!
Francis Oughterard by Suzette A Hill
Now these are tricky to write about without spoilers. So what I’m going to say echos the blurb – Francis is a vicar in the 1950s and all he wants is a quiet life. But somehow he keeps getting entangled in murders. These are more suspense than mystery, but they are laugh out loud funny and more than a touch surreal. There are five books featuring Francis – which I’ve read – and two featuring his niece – which I haven’t. My library used to hold copies of most of these – but I actually read them on kindle, which seems like the only place to get the final two books.
In other books, there’s also Umberto Eco’s In the Name of the Rose, which as I said in the June Book Deals post, I first read as part of my history degree and features a monk solving some gruesome crimes. And obviously the other famous crime solving monk is Cadfael, but I haven’t read any of them – yes, yes I’ll get to it at some point.