‘St. Benet’s,’ by David Blake

Book 2 in David Blake’s Norfolk Broads police procedural series is St. Benet’s. As you might guess, this novel takes its name from a church, and the issue of religion gets touched on.

Detective John Tanner is now cohabiting, at least much of the time, with his partner, attractive DC Jenny Evans. This is against regulations, but nobody’s called them on it yet.

Jenny in particular is appalled when they’re called to the ruined abbey adjoining the Catholic church to which she (technically) belongs, though her practice has lapsed. A man has been found on the site of the old altar, his head nearly severed and a knife in his hand. It looks like suicide, but if so it’s an extreme one, and John isn’t certain about it. The dead man was the former priest of the parish. Years ago he was accused of the rape and murder of a teenaged girl. He was acquitted, but excommunicated. After that he became the head of his own Satanic cult, and wrote a bestselling book. In that book, he suggested that he might be able to kill himself and rise from the dead, through diabolical power.

And then his tomb is struck by lightning, and another young girl is murdered on the site. And the priest’s corpse disappears.

Tanner’s and Jenny’s working relationship is strained when he makes some disparaging remarks about religion, which offend her. But they have to keep their eyes on the puzzle, because more murders are coming, and they are very cruel murders. Of course they can’t have been committed by the dead priest… can they?

St. Benet’s was a fairly engaging mystery in which religious questions were handled more or less even-handedly (though some very poor theology gets expressed, but that may just be the individual characters’ voices). My biggest problem with the book was that I figured out the murderer fairly early on.

Still, it was entertaining.

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