This novel is packed full of suspense, great characters, a believable plot, and stimulating theological discussions. This may be the most interesting novel I have read in ages.
The action takes place in a small town in Mississippi in the 1950s. Our heroine is Martha, owner of the small town newspaper and one who rents out rooms in her home. The action begins when the rector of the Episcopal church in the town dies. It is thought to have been a heart attack, even though the man had been young and in good health.
There are many vacant pulpits in the denomination so the people of the small church prepare themselves for the wait. Martha is surprised when a priest comes to her door and asks about rooms. He is the new rector. He settles into his role but before too long, Martha senses there is something not right. She is determined to find out what it is.
I really liked Martha. She is a tenacious woman. She is determined to find out the truth about a number of events in their town. I was amazed at how she “arranges” people and things to uncover the truth.
Martha considers herself a delivery person for God's judgment. She is not after revenge as she knows that is God's responsibility. In fact, there is an event in the plot showing that human revenge can go horribly wrong. Martha is more of a path maker, giving the police a clear way to find the guilty person and exact justice.
I loved the theological discussions in the book. There is lots of biblical truth shared in the context of good dialog. There is even an exploration of why God allows evil. It is not preachy at all. The theological discussions flow naturally within the plot structure.
I highly recommend this mystery novel. It is well crafted with great characters. I was leery of a male writing a female lead character but was happily surprised and pleased with the result. This novel is more than a mystery, however. It is a clever allegory, highlighted by the ending.
There is a free six week reader's guide (study guide) available at www.TheRectorGuide.com. This novel would make a great choice for a reading group. There would be much to discuss.
You can watch the book trailer here.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Michael Hicks Thompson was raised on a small farm in Mississippi. He claims to know a thing or two about strong Christian women, alcoholic men, and Jesus. He graduated from Ole Miss, served in the military, then received a master's degree in mass communication from the University of South Carolina. He and his wife live in Memphis, Tennessee. They have three grown sons and four grandchildren. You can find out more at www.michaelthompsonauthor.com.
Shepherd King Publishing, 370 pages.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author for the purpose of an independent and honest review.