Clergy sleuths

Trish, our Parish Reader, suggests Summer reading:

This Summer I have found myself nevertheless drawn to books in which churches and clergy feature – many of them either the victims of murder or the amateur sleuths who investigate!


On the gentler side are Jane Austen, a Rector’s daughter, whose heroine Catherine Moreland, another clergy daughter, goes off to Bath for a holiday and gets more than she bargained for… Georgette Heyer, whose meticulously researched Regency novels have been my preferred escapism for years, especially “Arabella”, the story of a vicar’s daughter who is sent off to London to find herself a husband… and Barbara Pym, often described as a modern-day Austen, for she too writes about small communities with an eye for detail, exploring and gently poking fun at the Anglo-Catholicism of post-WW2 England in her novels “A Glass of Blessings” and “An Unsuitable Attachment”.

If you fancy an evening with your feet up in front of the DVD player to gain more insights into clerical ways, the BBC’s version of Barchester, with Alan Rickman (aka Snape in the Harry Potter films) as the “oleaginous” Mr Slope, is delicious… as is the TV version of “The Rector’s Wife”, with Lindsay Duncan… the books are wonderful too, by Trollopes Anthony and his great-grand-daughter Joanna (a vicar’s granddaughter!)

Fr BAnd the clergy detectives– from GK Chesterton’s  Father Brown, to the Diocesan Deliverance Consultant The Rev Merrily Watkins, created by Phil Rickman. Those going to Walsingham might like to read Kate Charles’ novels set around the shrine, “The Snares of Death” and “A Drink of Deadly Wine.” D M Greenwood, an acid-tongued version of Barbara Pym, whose amateur sleuth, the Rev Theodora Braithwaite, is so annoying that I’m surprised no-one’s murdered her! Greenwood kills off all ranks of clergy, while exploring modern dilemmas familiar to Anglicans try “Holy Terrors” or “Mortal Spoils”. PD James seems to have a similar predilection for reducing clergy numbers – try “Holy Orders”…

I’m looking forward to reading some new novels too… there’s James Runcie’s (yes, the son of Robert Runcie, one-time Archbishop of Canterbury!) series The Grantchester Mysteries, set in the 1950’s with vicar and amateur sleuth Sidney Chambers… and, last but not least, Donna Fletcher Crow (whose son-in-law is an Anglican priest!) and her “A Very Private Grave”, part one of the Monastery Murders trilogy…


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4 Responses to Clergy sleuths

  1. Penny says:

    I love this entry! Having nearly worked my way through all of Barbara Pym’s books on the recommendation of Fr Ian and Fr Michael on the way to Walsingham a couple of year ago I’m looking for something new so may try D M Greenwood this summer!

  2. Trish says:

    For more info on DM Greenwood – – if you can’t find copies I’ll lend you mine!

  3. Fr Derek, Oldham says:

    Excellent post! I’m going to give James Runcie and Kate Charles a try. For those who’ve never read the books or seen the dvds Ellis Peters “Brother Cadfael” is worth a look – if a Benedictine monk counts as clergy.

  4. Slightly more obscure and dated, but fun too is Cyril Alington DD, hymn writer and former Dean of Durham – he has two Archdeacons who jointly are detectives, for example in ‘Archdeacons Afloat’

    Neither Archdeacon seems to pray or talk about religion, but they do have had a classical education, and a sense of humour – from Archdeacons Afloat… Archdeacon Castleton asks Archdeacon Craggs, “Do you remember the story Bishop Paget used to tell about the optimist who fell down the liftshaft at the Hotel Cecil. ‘Even then’ (he used to say) ‘the poor fellow’s constitutional optimism did not desert him: for, as he passed each landing, he he was heard to call out in loud and cheerful tones: All right – so far!’ “.

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