A Director's Cut (An Abbot Peter
Church Times Bookshop £7.20 (Use code
THIS is the third outing for Abbot Peter, once head of a desert
monastery, now retired to the sleepy seaside town of Stormhaven,
and his niece DI Tasmin Shah, "as ambitious as Stalin and much
better looking". They are in the theatre, enjoying free tickets to
something DI Shah wouldn't have paid for - a grim two-hander
involving a mother and daughter at war - when the curtain rises to
reveal the theatre's owner with her throat cut. Everyone is a
suspect - the controversial young writer, the quiet lady who does
the costumes, the fashionable director, and the actors, ageing
Margery and pretty Millicent. So is the vagrant living in the
churchyard next door, until he, too, dies horribly.
The background theme is family. The writer is at war with his
bishop, and psychotherapy reveals that all may not be well with the
Shahs. The author likes his literary jokes, and intertwined with
the story is that of Meister Eckhart, the medieval philosopher who
was of the opinion that family didn't exist.
The hallmarks that distinguished Parke's earlier work - the wit,
sharp dialogue, and ability to project himself into the heads of
his characters - are still there. His bishop, wallowing in false
humility, is both a wonderful comic grotesque and uncomfortably
real. I do wish Parke would abandon his habit of writing in very
short chapters. Ruth Rendell doesn't need to do it, and, as his
plotting grows in complexity and confidence, with a truly
Rendellian twist at the end, neither does he.
Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.