Detective novels: Clergy choices

Detective novels are often popular among the clergy and so for our blog we asked a variety of priests, and a bishop, for their recommendations:

Revd Jane Dicker‘s choice is in the Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne. Mthr Jane writes: “The book is called The Devil’s Seal. A deputation of religious are attacked in Ireland in AD 671. There is a murder, with a long list of suspects including an Abbess and brother Eadulf’s long lost brother Egric. Celt and Saxon do battle – but who really had motive to kill brother Cerdic? Peter Tremayne creates a character in Sr Fidelma that is bright and intelligent and who makes early medieval Ireland come alive.”

Revd Jenni Beaumont writes: “It’s so hard to pick just one murder mystery novel because one of the key traits of crime fiction is great characterisation. These characters sear themselves into your mind and crawl under your skin leaving indelible imprints on your imagination forever. Private investigator Cordelia Gray is a particularly impressive character because PD James only wrote two books with Gray. In the first, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Gray inherits Pryde Detective Agency and is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of Cambridge student Mark Callender. Full of suspense, tense drama and unravelling secrets, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman reveals the chilling and sometimes sinister skeletons that lurk in the family cupboards.”

Revd Katherine Bowyer also chooses P D James, this time Death in Holy Orders. Katherine comments I first read it when I was a theological student at a residential college. There were lots of resonances! More than the mystery aspect, it was the acute observation of church life – and knowledge of the church – that drew me in.

Revd Andrea Jones‘ chooses: With a Bare Bodkin by Cyril Hare. Andrea writes “Set in the government wartime department Pin Control and featuring the amateur detective and barrister, Pettigrew, this story centres not only on the department but on the Fernlea Residential Club where a number of Pin Control are billeted. One of their number turns out to be a mystery writer and his fellow residents begin to play a game of planning a perfect murder. Needless to say a real murder takes place. It is an amusing read and whilst Pin Control as a government department is quite ridiculous it is gently nostalgic looking back to an era of manilla files and typing pools and the plot keeps one guessing.”

And finally an episcopal choice from Bishop David Walker who writes “My favourite murder mystery is Umberto Ecos The Name of the Rose. It’s initial appeal to me was that its hero is a Franciscan brother, a member of part of that Franciscan family to which I, as a Tertiary, also belong. But what captivated me most about the novel, was how Eco weaves in the theological arguments of the day, making them integral to the plot. The central matters at dispute, whether Christianity is at its heart creation affirming or denying, whether our faith story is tragic or comic, and whether life is to be endured or enjoyed, remain at the heart of how and why Christians often differ, and differ deeply today. And whilst knowing these differences helps me accept and welcome those who disagree with me, I finished the book reaffirmed in my choice to follow Jesus after the example of St Francis, not John Calvin.”

Thank you to all who contributed. Feel free to add your recommendation by commenting below.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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2 Responses to Detective novels: Clergy choices

  1. Dorothy Sayers: The Nine Tailors. The life of a small parish church. An exposition on change ringing and one of the more ingenious methods of death.

  2. Liz Parkinson says:

    Judy Ford writes really good detective novels, with the same detectives and characters in them. She is a Christian, and most of her regular characters are too. They are always a good read. My favourite is Admission of Innocent.

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