*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Book review: A Death in the Parish by Richard Coles

by
14 July 2023

Caroline Chartres on a clerical sleuth’s return

CANON Daniel Clement, Richard Coles’s clerical detective, is back (Books, 24 June 2022), and life is anything but peaceful. Champton, his rural East Midlands parish, is starting to resemble Midsomer, with a second murderer on the loose.

As if that wasn’t enough, the parish has been joined with Upper and Lower Badsaddle; so our hero finds himself uncomfortably in harness with an Evangelical colleague who “would insist on [Bible stories] being true in a way that Daniel did not, could not — and anyway he thought we owed the Bible more than the literal truth that those who thought themselves its defenders allowed”.

The Associate Vicar is not the only new arrival. The cast of familiar characters is augmented by others, filling the gaps left by those unfortunate enough to have been killed off in the first book of the series.

The 1980s setting — Mrs Thatcher is Prime Minister, the M25 has just been opened, Howard’s Way is the favoured Sunday-night television viewing — reminds us of how much less complicated life was in the era before social media and universal My-Truth-Trumps-Your-Truth syndrome. But the seeds have already been sown: “There is a peculiar forgetfulness of our age, thought Daniel, so enchanted with novelty and the extraordinary success of science and technology, that the longer story of the evolution of the values and institutions and virtues that have long shaped our lives gets lost.”

This is no cosy retrospective, however: racism, abuse, and beatings all rear their ugly heads, with an acknowledgement that “Human sin and greed and violence can dress itself in gospel robes and proclaim righteousness for the most depraved of deeds.” But, like all the best stories, this one is character-driven, and the characters are observed with an unflinching but mellow and humorous eye.

The story rollicks along, so that I was carried over the one point in the plot which I found unconvincing — not because of that which was done, but, rather, because of that which was left undone. I was left looking forward to the next appearance of a wise and compassionate priest.

 

Caroline Chartres is a contributing editor for the Church Times.


A Death in the Parish
Richard Coles
Weidenfeld & Nicolson £18.99
(978-1-4746-1267-8)
Church Times Bookshop £15.99

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)