|Alan Beechey: Murdering Ministers|
Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover),
Oliver Swithin, creator of the infamous Finsbury the Ferret series of children's books, accepts a commission to write a satire of modern religious practices from the point of view of the atheistic Finsbury. Along with a photographer friend famous for taking pictures at the -- to put it modestly, the height of ecstasy -- Oliver attends a United Diaconalist service.
At the service, Oliver meets a very strange group of characters. Oliver's old school friend, Paul Piltdown, a closet gay, presides as minister. The congregation includes a male undergoing a sex change, an atheist married to one of the deacons, a boy who plays at playing the guitar. Plus a rather cultish lay minister who's a bit too attractive to the local youth for the rest of the members' peace of mind.
A girl disappears, and the local authorities assign Oliver's girlfriend, Detective Sergeant Effie Strongitharm, late of Scotland Yard, to find her. While Effie investigates the girl's disappearance, someone poisons the lay minister during communion. Local police, dressed as Santas come rushing in, but you really don't want to know their names or how they act. Suffice it to say, the situation deteriorates so much Oliver must step in and finger the murderer.
I didn't find the plot that bad, but for me, the jokes, the character names, and the puns detracted a great deal from the mystery. A few odd names (such as Stoodby, one of the policemen) wouldn't have been too bad. But Beechey gave almost every character in the book a weird name -- leading me to surmise the author overdosed on Dickens at a far too impressionable age.
Patricia White is the Sapphire Award-winning author of A Wizard Scorned. Her current book, the contemporary PS, I've Taken a Lover, is available from Lionhearted Books.
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