The End of the Roadie (A Mystery for D. I. Costello)
Church Times Bookshop £7.20
Death in the Shadows (A Father Gilbert Mystery)
Church Times Bookshop £7.20
BRENDON PHELAN, a rock star, has just finished a concert at the Hammersmith Apollo when one of his roadies is found shot dead in an alley outside the stage door. By chance, D. C. Gary Houseman was in the audience with his girlfriend and is first on the scene, closely followed by his boss, D. I. Angela Costello.
The investigating team soon finds that the roadie was incompetent and generally disliked, and that the singer and a number of his staff are used to handling firearms. It transpires that Phelan, an engaging and open young Irishman of great talent, is apparently harbouring a career-destroying secret for which the deceased was blackmailing him, and that the death has not stopped the blackmail.
This is the third outing for D. I. Costello, and a worthy successor for the other two. She is a modern police officer, the female leader of a tightly knit team, who address her cheerily as “Guv” and fetch her coffee when asked politely. She is good at exploiting her team’s talents, particularly for online research, and ready to share the credit when they do well. Happily married to Patrick, she is stepmother to Houseman’s girlfriend, and, besides being an excellently plotted and gripping detective story, this book has some interesting points to make about the difficulty of having a relationship with the boss’s daughter.
From an old-fashioned detective story in which the purely terrestrial forces of Good defeat the forces of Evil to something much darker. Father Gilbert is an ex-detective turned Anglican priest, who sees visions that he doesn’t always understand. His bishop, who views him with suspicion, insists that he attend a conference held in a seaside town on “Issues Facing the Church”. and takes part in the panel that follows the bishop’s own contribution on “The Compassionate Church”. He isn’t keen. “He knew they’d hear the usual sentimental twaddle with a lot of handholding and emotional back rubs.”
He is reading about the murder of a young Chinese woman when the victim appears to him. Details of the murder suggest links with other killings, and, with a prayer to St Michael for protection against the devil, he contacts a colleague now working for the Eastsea police.
A member of a recently vandalised monastery is found dead from a drug overdose, and the evidence suggests that he regularly visited the dead girl at a local massage parlour. Father Gilbert finds himself involved in the battle for control of the illegal sex trade in a town soaked in evil, as the apparitions of those exploited in it throughout the ages drive him to seek justice for the two victims.
This is McCusker’s second Father Gilbert book, and is sometimes powerfully bleak, based as it is on the author’s research into actual people-trafficking. The two villains, MamaSan, the brothel-keeper, and Gilbert’s old adversary the gangster Jack Doyle are chillingly horrible. But the priest’s actions and the plot are driven by a sense that Good will ultimately triumph.
Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.