I very much enjoyed the first title in the Faith Morgan series, The Reluctant Detective (2010), which I reviewed back in 2016. Yet me being typical me, I then managed to forget to follow up this read with the next book. Equally me being me, I am reviewing a Christmas set mystery in July. Though after the week of hot weather we’ve had, something cold is probably not a bad idea!
Ockley’s tale begins in December, with two weeks to go until Christmas and Faith Morgan is busier than ever, as the vicar of St James’s in Little Worthy. The opening chapter sees her going to see Oliver Markham, who is going to play Joseph in the nativity play. But when she gets there, she finds the farm overrun with police. What has been going on? The body of a teenage boy has been found in the local river and Morgan’s ex-partner, Detective Inspector Ben Shorter, (who she met when she was part of the police force), is in charge of the murder case. He is quick to suspect Oliver, who has lost his temper with youths on his property in the past. The victim’s identity leads the investigation to the local junior choir and from there we get to learn more about his difficult homelife. Faith understandably can’t keep her nose out of the case, picking up information here and there from various locals and parishioners, as well as from the new junior choirmaster. In amongst this we have the continued fraught will-they, won’t-they, between Ben and Faith, which becomes more complicated when each of them has their head turned a little by other people. Oh, and on top of this Faith still has to find a donkey for the nativity play. It is definitely going to be a very busy fortnight for her!
The strengths of the first novel pleasingly continue into the second. The clerical milieu is very well-done and definitely feels appropriately updated. Faith Morgan is an appealing protagonist, who draws you in. It is interesting to see how she has to fathom out how best to fulfil her role as a vicar and whether this role clashes with the policewoman in her still.
This is a quick and easy read and I think this is so, because of how good a storyteller Ockley is. There are familiar character types, but they are engagingly written; so much so that I would read this series for them alone. Evidence is mostly forthcoming through the conversations Morgan has, though I think some of the earlier incidences don’t yield very much in the way of information. Though this book and another has got my thinking about how readers want their clues distributed. Do we need them to be eked out consistently all the way through the book or is it okay for them to start out like occasional snowflakes, before turning into an avalanche in the final third? Is the latter version more realistic, true to how things occur in real life? Or is there a case for a more artificial approach which gives the readers enough to work on, in order to solve the case before the end? I think normally I am more frustrated with the books in which a lot of information surrounding the case is lumped into the final chapters. Yet I think today’s read would prove an exception and again I think the author’s storytelling skills and characters are a key reason in that.
Calendar of Crime: April (8) Month Related Item on the Cover