ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
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.
It took me awhile to get into The Reluctant Detective but my persistence rewarded me with a pretty good mystery that did not have a blatantly obvious suspect. The story itself was a bit different than I am used to but I imagine that the setting and customs of a small English village had a lot to do with it.
I also did not feel that I got to know the characters very well. I could tell that Faith was quite torn between her current position as a newly ordained priest of the Church of England and her former life as a policewoman. She showed the compassion and mercy befitting her position but couldn’t manage to stay out of the murder investigation.
For the most part The Reluctant Detective was a satisfying story and I was glad I read it in its entirety. There were a couple of things that might be offensive to some Christians so be warned. I felt that the subjects of alcohol and extramarital affairs were treated in an offhand manner as if they were acceptable Christian behavior. If you can overlook this and enjoy clerical mysteries, you would probably enjoy The Reluctant Detective.