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An Inconvenient Convent: An Abbot Peter mystery by Simon Parke

by
10 February 2023

Fiona Hook enjoys the latest crime mystery for an abbatial sleuth

WHO hated Abbess Hildegard enough to lock her in a stone chapel on the night of the Autumn Equinox Bonfire so that she roasted to death? There was certainly no shortage of candidates: the cleaner, Daisy, whose application for the novitiate she had refused; her confessor, Volmar, stricken to be cast as Satan in her forthcoming musical; gentle Richardis, to whom Hildegard was so unpleasant when she left the Order; or even Laura, the terrifyingly charismatic, bullying Tory MP implacably opposed to the Abbess’s plans for a Green Chapel and festival. And who wrote the note pushed under her door after the murder, warning that accidents occur?

Once again, the investigating officer, DCI Tamsin Shah, calls on the aid of her uncle, the retired Abbot Peter, whose familiarity with life in an enclosed community makes him the ideal person to negotiate the complex internal dynamics of Stormhaven’s Community of the Holy Fire in pursuit of the truth. He is unaware that he is putting his own life at risk.

It is hard to understand why Parke is not better known. This eighth outing for the unlikely duo has all his usual hallmarks — careful plotting, the ability to pin down each individual in a rich gallery of characters in a few deft sentences (the self-absorbed bishop carefully curating his media image is particularly amusing) — and an instinctive understanding of human psychology. There are some lovely one-liners. We see Tasmin, married to her job, “even if the marriage is unhappy, even if her partner — the police — was to be abused at every opportunity”, struggle to negotiate an unexpected and unsought new relationship; and Richardis’s epiphany as she puts telling the truth before seeking approval.

The killer is finally discovered, but this time evil goes unpunished, as it so often does.


Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.

 

An Inconvenient Convent: An Abbot Peter mystery
Simon Parke
White Crow Books £13.99
(978-1-78677-214-5)

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