This probably doesn’t count as Christian Fiction. But it has an Abbot as a detective and has some themes and characters that will resonate with some Christians.
It is a murder mystery, so it is not pretty – the cover gives you some idea of what to expect. However, I didn’t find it as gruesome or horror-filled as the cover implied. There are a lot of characters, a lot of twists, lots of false trials and although the author gave me the clues I needed, I couldn’t spot the murderer at all – so from that point of view, I’d recommend it. It is interleaved with a story about a Persian poet, Hafiz. These chapters achieve a moving and beautiful luminosity of prose. They appeared to have nothing to do with the murder mystery until the last few chapters, but I was glad they were there, as I found them entrancing. Without them, the rest of the story would be oddly unsatisfying.
Simon’s style of writing can take a while to get used to. He is very fond, too fond, of unattributed dialogue and for a fast reader this makes for hard reading. When there is almost a page of dialogue with no ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ to anchor readers, most people will get confused and this is made worse by the use of single-quotes. There are moments when single-quoted dialogue has a line of exposition in the middle – with no quotes – so if you read quickly and don’t realise that this line is not spoken but is thought, you end up completely muddled! Mostly Simon is very good at giving his character’s distinctive voices to avoid this sort of muddle, but there were several places where I did lose the thread. It seems very pernickety of me to complain about something so trivial, but I did find it irritating and it spoilt my enjoyment of the story. So, to all authors, please be careful with unattributed dialogue and be kinder to your readers!
My other, very petty, complaint is about the Church Times. This novel was reviewed at the same week that ‘Archbishop’ by Michelle Guinness was published. That book was not reviewed, sadly, as I would have been far more interested in a review of it than ‘A Psychiatrist Screams’. It seemed odd that she didn’t get a review, when Simon Parke did. He does do a regular column for the Church Times. Could that have something to do with it? I hope not!
However, I have ordered ‘Archbishop’ and will review it when I have read it!