Friday, May 27, 2011

The Reluctant Detective

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Reluctant Detective
Monarch Books (April 30, 2011)
Martha Ockley


Martha Ockley is the pen-name of Rebecca Jenkins. She read history at Oxford University, and spent several years working alongside her father, the Rt. Revd. David Jenkins (Bishop of Durham 1984-94) during the turbulence of the 1980s. She lives in Teesdale in the North East of England where the landscape and history provide the inspiration for her Regency detective, F R Jarrett. Since September 2009 she has been Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Writer in Residence at York St John University. She is a full-time author, writing both fiction and non-fiction. (She should not be confused with a Canadian actor and singer, also called Rebecca Jenkins.)


The Reluctant Detective sees Faith Morgan arriving back in the region of her birth - Winchester in Hampshire. Recently ordained, she had been working as a curate in an Anglican inner-city church. Within an hour of her arrival at Little Worthy, she witnesses the sudden shocking death of a fellow priest during a communion service at St James's. He had been poisoned with a pesticide mixed with the communion wine. The senior police officer who arrives at the scene turns out to be Detective Inspector Ben Shorter, Faith's ex long-term boyfriend.

She is urged by the Bishop to stay on to look after the parish of Little Worthy. As she meets her parishioners she learns some surprising facts about her apparently well loved predecessor, and starts to suspect a motive for his death. And it is she who finally identifies the murderer.

The story gets off to a dramatic start with the previous vicar collapsing as soon as he drank the communion cup, and it holds the interest throughout. There is some romantic interest too. Inspector Ben Shorter starts by sneeringly telling his sergeant, "Ms Morgan is a vicar. One of the ordained," Ben emphasized the word. “She's a card-carrying professional at the touchy-feely stuff.” But he soon starts to feel differently about her again, although she is well aware that he "didn't understand the reality she experienced through her faith. He didn't even recognize its existence. That was the gulf between them." Her own beliefs and doubts are convincingly described, for even she can't help wondering, "What if there is no truth to it?" But for her, as for Pascal before her, it was a gamble worth taking.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Reluctant Detective, go HERE

The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley is the first book in the Faith Morgan series about a newly ordained priest who left behind not just her career as a policewoman, but also her former lover  Detective Inspector Ben Shorter. Faith has been called to the village of Little Worthy to check it out as a possible home parish. Instead she witnesses the current priest's shocking death from drinking poisoned communion wine. The bishop quickly asks Faith to fill in as Little Worthy's priest, and she can't seem to leave behind her old police instincts to investigate the crime while she gets to know her new community. Complicating affairs is the investigating officer: Ben Shorter, bringing up feelings they both thought deeply buried. Ockley neatly connects the jobs of detective and priest as both seekers of the truth, and Faith struggles with her new position and old habits. Faith is in an intriguing character who must juggle the delicate job of entering a new parish, dealing with the politics of religious bureaucracy, and a difficult relationship with her elder sister, Ruth, with whom she must room until finding a permanent parish home. The mystery is shocking, as is the tragedy that follows, but Ockley avoids sensationalizing them, keeping the focus on the characters rather than the gore. This is a quiet mystery, it builds slowly over the course of the story as Faith puts the pieces carefully together. Faith is a multi-layered character who is very empathetic. The Reluctant Detective is a cerebral mystery with plenty of twists and turns and deep character development. I hope that Faith Morgan will be back very soon.