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Frederick Ramsay: Secrets


Crescent Blues Book Views Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), ISBN 1-59058-188-1

Book: frederik ramsay, secrets
The Reverend Randolph Blake Fisher, Jr. arrives in Picketsville, Virginia, as the new vicar of the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Episcopal Church. He brings with him hope for a new beginning and his share of regrets and past baggage. He knows his mission includes bringing new life to both the staid and dying church and to himself. He also hopes the details of his troubles in Philadelphia will remain his secret. He can't foresee, however, that one of his first challenges will involve dealing with the murder of Waldo Templeton, the unassuming church organist, found shot twice at close range in the church's sanctuary.

Millicent Bass, part time church secretary, discovers Templeton's body and frantically calls Sheriff Ike Schwartz, who arrives to find the crime scene in disarray and Millicent's fingerprints in the smear of blood near the body. Under interrogation, she provides what little information she recalls. She doesn't reveal, however, a secret piece of information known only to her. She alone knows that the previous church vicar saved files of personal information taken from his counseling sessions with many of his parishioners. The files remain hidden in a locked box for which Millicent possesses the only duplicate key. Now, to Millicent's dismay, the box and its files have turned up missing.

While the investigation moves forward at the sheriff's office (with Blake as a possible suspect), the new vicar contends with a hostile group of parishioners who know from unnamed sources of the damning, but false, allegations in his past. Sheriff Schwartz, meanwhile, runs a search of the victim's fingerprints and unexpectedly attracts the unwelcome interest of the FBI. Templeton, it seems, harbored secrets of his own.

Blake learns of the existence of the secret files and embarks on a search for the missing box. When the secretive Millicent Bass becomes victim number two, both Blake and Schwartz ratchet up the effort to discover who has a secret past worth committing murder to conceal.

Secrets marks the much-welcomed follow-up to Ramsay's first novel, Artscape. Vicar Blake Fisher adds a new touch to the cast of characters and seems destined for a novel of his own. However, many of the elements that made the first novel such an enjoyable read remain. Schwartz proves more than a match for the FBI operatives who consistently under estimate his competence, Ruth Harris, the liberal president of Callend College, provides the perfect foil for the very conservative Schwartz, and their intellectual duals add spice to the fast moving narrative. As the mystery unfolds, Ramsay manages to take a swipe at pretentious academics, examine a few basic faith-based concepts, and best of all write another highly entertaining novel.

Clint Hunter

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