CLERICAL DETECTIVES, by Philip Grosset
What are clerical detectives?
I take clerical detectives to mean any fictional detective with a significant church or religious background, so on my website I’ve included not only priests (male and female), ministers, monks, nuns, ex-nuns, a church administrator and a rabbi, but because he’s such fun, a choirmaster/organist (Hayden Konig, the leading character in three comic detective stories by Mark Schweizer).
Why a site about clerical detectives?
Many authors start by using their own backgrounds and experiences as settings for their stories, and this is particularly true of many clerical mysteries, especially those written by clergy, so these can give us a chance to discover what really goes on behind the scenes, not only in their personal lives but in the organisations to which they belong.
And the stories can raise important questions of belief (even the very existence of God) as well as raising practical issues (such as the position of women, or of gays, in the church). To provide all this may be asking rather a lot of a detective story, but it’s surprising how many of the books meet these criteria, often adding humor too which comes as a welcome bonus.
Why choose the detectives I did?
I began by exploring the net for information about Charles Merrill Smith whose Reverend Randollph books I had accidentally stumbled on, only to discover there was little about him there. I thought he deserved better than this so decided to launch a small introductory site devoted to him and three or four otherwise neglected authors. I then began to discover just how many clerical detectives there were!
Even now, I've deliberately not included them all, but only the dozen or so that that I most enjoyed. I haven’t even included Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael (I prefer Sister Fidelma) but I'm getting round to him! The authors I chose were those who seemed to me to produce the most interesting characters, whose lives really were influenced by their faith and beliefs.
Who are the very best clerical detectives?
My own favorites are:
● Reverend Randollph (by Charles Merrill Smith). The author and character obviously have much in common, and his sense of humor
brings his religion to life.
● Rabbi Small (by Harry Kemelman). A very sympathetic portrayal of a small Jewish community with the emphasis on the religious significance of Judaism.
● Sister Fidelma (by Peter Tremayne). A fascinating portrayal of 7th century Ireland when the Celtic church allowed monks and nuns to marry, there were mixed sex monasteries, and women could rise to high levels in the legal profession.
● Father Koesler (by William X Kienzle). Author and character again have much in common. A fascinating portrayal of the Roman Catholic church after Vatican II and the problems it still faces.
● Theodora Braithwaite (by D. M. Greenwood). A disgruntled view of oddities in the Anglican Church, written by someone who had obviously experienced them at first hand. Entertaining and witty.
Other detectives whose books I cover on my website (both authors and characters) are:
● Christine Bennett (by Lee Harris)
● Father Joseph Bredder (by Leonard Holton)
● Father Brown (by G. K. Chesterton)
● Lily Connor (by Michelle Blake)
● Mother Lavinia Grey (by Kate Gallison)
● Hayden Konig (by Mark Schweizer)
● Sister Mary Teresa (by Monica Quill)
For more information on each of these, once again please see http://homepage.ntlworld.com/philipg/detectives
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