A Father Gilbert Mystery.
Family feuds, murders ancient and modern, but although this is an entertaining and well-written small-village-in-Britain murder mystery, surprisingly by an American author, it is also in large part interwoven with paranormal happenings. If supernatural is not your thing, do not reach for this story. Personally, several very odd, inexplicable experiences of my own have given me an open mind. Don’t mess with the occult, unless you are very brave, or plain stupid, but it makes for an intriguing ingredient for a crime plot if handled convincingly, which I believe Paul McCusker achieves.
A ring, a medallion and a sword are artefacts linked to a coven of occult practitioners of more than a century ago, as is the well preserved body discovered during land recovery operations on Lord Haysham’s estate when a stone bridge is exposed.
In the bell tower of St Mark’s church, Father Gilbert tries to save a suicidal man from throwing himself off, but the man jumps, leaving the medallion behind. However his body is not found below, and Father Gilbert must assume that it has been an illusion. He is an ex-Scotland Yard detective, so his training in that regard is bound to clash with his current religious position. The frequent visions by the Anglican priest and his combat with temptation and the evil evident in the present day resurrection of the coven by new generations of old families is convincingly written.
Father Gilbert interferes with the path of the evildoers rather than solving the mysteries. The plot twists and turns as the clues mount, found in old family documents and letters that oft as not get stolen. Here it is very much a case of the sins of the fathers being visited on the current generation and the reason why the families are still feuding. Bringing the sword, the medallion and the ring back together will unleash unspeakable evil, a Black Mass and human sacrifice, unless Father Gilbert can intervene.
The new curate at St. Mark’s is a young man, Father Benson, forced to transport his superior from one clue to the next while trying to fit in the needs of the congregation. The dialogue between then serves well to illustrate the personal battles in both of them regarding the church dogma and the supernatural.
The paranormal would be a very easy cop-out for covering some sloppily unexplainable event in a whodunit, but I don’t think it has been used in that way in this novel at all. However, it takes a brave writer to take the chance.
Peter J. Earle of Book Postmortem investigated this Crime Scene, and has written this honest review requested by LION HUDSON PLC. Oxford. UK.