The Advent of Murder – Martha Ockley

Faith Morgan is the relatively new vicar at St James’s, Little Worthy. Faith used to be a policewoman & some of her former colleagues, especially former boyfriend Ben Shorter, find her change of career, & her vocation, hard to accept. In the first book in the series, The Reluctant Detective, Faith found herself in the middle of a murder investigation when she’d only just arrived in Little Worthy. Now, when murder touches Faith & her congregation again, she finds it difficult to resist doing a little investigating of her own. Her police training & natural nosiness are an irresistible combination.

Advent is a busy time for Faith. She has all her usual duties plus the Christmas pageant to organise. Churchwarden Pat Montesque never lets Faith forget just how important the pageant is to the parish & Faith’s immediate problem is finding a donkey to carry Mary in the procession. On her way to talk to new parishioner Oliver Markham, the Joseph in the production, Faith comes across a police team investigating the discovery of a young man’s body by the river on Markham’s land. Detective Inspector Ben Shorter is heading the investigation but Faith gets more information from Sergeant Peter Gray, a friend & parishioner. The boy, Lucas Bagshaw, has been hit on the head & had then fallen into the river somewhere upstream of the place where he was found.

Faith discovers that Lucas belonged to the youth choir run by junior choirmaster Jim Postlethwaite, a charismatic man who is determined to make a success of the choir even if some of the clergy at the cathedral are sceptical. Lucas had dropped out of school following the death of his mother some months earlier. His father had never been on the scene & his only relative was his mother’s younger brother Adam, an ex-soldier & alcoholic. Lucas’s best friends Vernon & Anna, known as V & the Dot, are shocked by his death but unwilling to give Faith or the police much information. As Faith struggles to balance her busy work life with her sister’s increasingly urgent demands that they talk about their mother’s health, she also becomes more involved with the investigation into Lucas’s death. Everyone involved has secrets they are determined to keep but murder tends to reveal much more than just the name of the murderer & this case is no exception.

This is the first mystery & the first contemporary book I’ve read in a while. A mention of The Reluctant Detective on a blog somewhere reminded me that I downloaded this second book & hadn’t yet read it. That’s one of the disadvantages of a Kindle, it’s so easy to forget what I have on it. Discovering that the third book in the series, A Saintly Killing, is due to be published next month, made me want to read this one immediately. I’m so glad I did because I enjoyed it just as much as the first book.

Faith is such a sympathetic character & her great enthusiasm for her new life & vocation is very touching. This time, we learn a little more about some of her parishioners, particularly spiky Pat Montesque & Faith also has a little flutter of romance with Jim Postlethwaite. Unfortunately taking him along for dinner with Peter Gray & his wife is a disaster when Ben Shorter turns up with his date, the pathologist working on the Lucas Bagshaw case. Jim’s uneasiness & Ben’s antagonism make for a very uncomfortable evening. It shows Faith how difficult it can be to separate work & friends & her previous life in the Force from her new life in the Church. I enjoyed all the details of Faith’s working life & her tentative relationship with a cat she calls The Beast is also endearing if you happen to be a cat lover. We know who’s going to come out on top there. I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series & I’m determined that it won’t get lost on my Kindle. I’m going to read it before it disappears from that first screen!

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