Saturday, October 22, 2011

Celebrating Mysteries: They Wear White Collars, Not Deerstalker Caps

I'm beginning to think that these theme months are making the time fly by quicker. It's hard to believe that October is winding down!

My celebration of Church Library Month continues with a look at four authors who have mystery series featuring men and women of the cloth. Otherwise known as Reverend, Pastor, or Vicar, they may wear white collars, but they do a mean job of solving crimes, as do some of those hired to help them.

Let's see who's in the lineup this week!

Mollie Hardwick (in dark glasses)
Mollie Hardwick is better known for her Upstairs, Downstairs novels, and she also wrote many books and plays based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. From the looks of the man with the deerstalker and pipe to the left, I would deduce that the photo has something to do with one of Mollie's plays.

Hardwick has also written a series of mysteries featuring Doran Fairweather, an antiques seller in Kent, England. In the series, Doran meets and falls in love with Rodney Chelmarsh, the local vicar. Although Chelmarsh needs to improve his child-rearing methods, he does not stand idly by where his flock is concerned. In the first book in the series, Malice Domestic, he performs a religious ceremony to combat what he believes to be true evil in his parish. He and Doran make a wonderful couple, and I'm looking forward to continuing this series.

There are seven books in the Fairweather series, with the first three being Malice Domestic (1986), Parson's Pleasure (1987), and Uneaseful Death (1988).

Here's a brief synopsis of Malice Domestic:

Mending her heart after a bad love affair, Doran Fairweather loves her new life in a tiny Kent village. Her antiques business is doing well and her low-key romance with the young vicar is quite pleasant. Then a stranger, Mr. Mumbray arrives, bringing with him a malignant presence that causes the villagers to flee, cringe, and sicken. Only Doran and the vicar dare defy the evil they sense invading their lives, but death and destruction are running wild. And neither they--nor the malevolent Mr. Mumbray himself--will be spared.... 

Suzette A. Hill
Suzette A. Hill is originally from Sussex in England, but has lived in many other places in the UK. For a long time she was content to do textual analysis of other people's poetry and prose. Then at the age of sixty-four out of sheer curiosity, Hill decided to try her hand at a short story, and a mystery series resulted. Her first book was rejected by everyone, so she self-published. The sales of the book were so good that a publishing company offered her a contract.

Just what is this series? It features Reverend Francis Oughterard, the vicar of Molehill, in 1950s Surrey, England. There are currently five books in the series. The first three are: A Load of Old Bones (2005), Bones in the Belfry (2008), and Bone Idle (2009). 

Here is a synopsis of A Load of Old Bones (a book that's on my wishlist):

Dire doings in the Vicarage! A Load Of Old Bones takes us on a nostalgic romp into a 1950s mythical Surrey, where murky deeds and shady chracters abound and where even the animal population is distinctly bizarre! All the Reverend Francis Oughterard had ever wanted was an easy life and a bit of peace and quiet: instead he is entangled in a nightmare scenario of predatory ladies, officious policemen, odd-ball clerics, wrathful parishioners, and a wayward cat. Whether the Reverend retains his sanity or deserves our sympathy is for the reader to decide....

D.M. Greenwood
D.M. Greenwood described herself as "a low level ecclesiastical civil servant." Originally from Norfolk in England, Greenwood took a first degree in classics at Oxford, then as a mature student, a second degree in theology at London University. She taught at several schools before working for the diocese of Rochester. An ex-pupil once described her as "a classics teacher of terrifying erudition and eccentricity."

Between 1991 and 1999 she wrote nine mysteries featuring Theodora Braithwaite, a clergy woman in London, England. The first three books in the series are: Clerical Errors (1991), Unholy Ghosts (1992), and Idol Bones (1993).

Kirkus Reviews has this to say about Clerical Errors (another wishlist book of mine):

A debut novel set in a Church of England diocese centered on Medewich Cathedral and its adjacent living and working quarters for bishop, deacon, archdeacon, and their functionaries. Into this tightly knit, semi-cloistered world enters Julia Smith--far from her Australian home, fresh from Cambridge and a broken romance--seeking her first job as typist in the office of power-hungry Canon Charles Wheeler. She's hired--and is second on the scene when cleaning woman Mrs. Thrigg finds the severed head of Pastor Paul Gray in the chapel. 

Deaconess Theodora Braithewaite and the Canon's assistant, Ian Caretaker, do their best to guide Julia through the intricacies of church politics while the police, mostly in the person of thickheaded Inspector Tallboys, flounder through a mess of motives and timetables. A second murder, drugs, black magic, embezzlement, and some strange personalities surface before the culprit emerges. Greenwood has a fresh, clever, and civilized style. Her further work is anticipated with pleasure and interest.

Lynette Hall Hampton
A native of North Carolina, Lynette Hall Hampton has had work as varied as a department store clerk and a Human Resources Manager for a large manufacturing company. These days she writes and promotes her books, works a full-time job, and spoils her two grandchildren.

Her two mysteries feature Willa Hinshaw, an associate minister at Liverpoole United Methodist Church, in Liverpoole, North Carolina. The books are: Jilted by Death (2003) and Echoes of Mercy (2007).

Here is a synopsis of Jilted by Death:

Happy with her new position as associate minister at the First United Methodist Church, Willa Hinshaw is ready for her first wedding in Liverpool, North Carolina. Unfortunately, the groom is left standing at the altar. The bride, Lee Ann Poole, eloped with a local mechanic, much to the dismay of her wealthy parents.

Soon afterward, Lee Ann calls from a motel, asking for Willa's help. But before the minister can learn what's going on, the newlywed couple's blood-stained car is discovered abandoned. When the jilted groom is found stabbed in his office, Willa realizes Lee Ann is in desperate trouble. To find the bride before it's too late, Willa counts on her calm strength to lead her in the right direction. Unfortunately, a killer is ready and waiting....

I hope I've added as many books to your wishlist as I have to mine. Don't forget to join me next weekend when Celebrating Mysteries will conclude with a bit of ecclesiastical potpourri!


  1. After reading cozies for so long, I always think of English villages as being full of eccentrics and people on the threshhold of murder. These sound very good and I hadn't heard of any of them. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Cathy - Thanks for this round-up! Such an interesting look at these soul-tending sleuths :-). Some more for my TBR list.

  3. Barbara-- You're welcome. I have to admit that my own view of English villages is undoubtedly a bit warped by my reading!

    Margot-- I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Old bones and severed heads? I must see if the diocese will let us add a library wing to the house...

  5. Dorte-- Thank you. I always like to have a good laugh before retiring for the evening! LOL


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