The third of my NetGalley books published this month, read over the weekend when we went to a lovely wedding but didn’t have quite as much reading time as I expected. I’d been looking forward to this one, a bit worried when a blog friend said she was surprised by it, and feeling like it would be a lot like the Richard Osman cosies. Was it?

Richard Coles – “Murder Before Evensong”

(23 May 2022, NetGalley)

They came round a bend in the path and the rectory lay before them, the kitchen light left on to illuminate the way like a tabernacle lamp in a dark church. Audrey made supper, Sunday-night soup and sarnie, as Sabbath tradition decreed.

In this scene-setter to a presumed series, we meet Canon Daniel Clement, the rector of Champton, a village and church presided over by the local wealthy family (of course fallen on fairly hard times). We’re in the 1980s or early 90s, as Cagney and Lacey is on the telly and mobile phones are just coming in – I’m not sure why this is done, unless it’s so he can get in a long series without having a murder in the village every five minutes. Anyway here the murder doesn’t happen until a third of the way through the book or so, so we have plenty of background, with a cast of mainly older folk (including Dan’s mother, Evelyn, who lives with him and is a slightly odd character herself) apart from a slightly stereotypical poacher/Traveller and a surprisingly cultured police officer.

What slightly surprised me was the depth of liturgical detail and church lore involved in this high Anglican based story. It’s lovey and respectful that faith and God are celebrated and woven in; Canon Clement does nothing that would undermine that, gathering his faith and doing the right thing by people. There’s kindness and understanding of why people might not respect a church “because they don’t know” which is striking. There’s a lot of detail and in fact I was quite glad that I had just been reading “Going to Church in Medieval England” as that filled in a few places I might have been a bit woolly on terminology. Which does ask the question: who is this aimed at, as the churchgoing public with an interest in church terms must be fairly small, and the group of non-religious people like me with an interest in church terms smaller. Anyway.

It is a good read. There are some charming dogs, some poisonous gossips and a big house full of slightly damaged posh people (a Bookish Beck serendipity moment is found when I’m reading two books with old houses much added to which have to open to the public to keep themselves going at the same time, with Helen Ashton’s “Half-Crown House” left half-read at home this weekend). The discovery of the murderer works, although I did think that the reader is supposed to see all the clues so as to work it out for themselves and I’m not sure that exactly happens, as one point seems to be only seen by the Canon. Anyway, I was OK with that and maybe it was there and I missed it. It was a little non-diverse apart from some gay male characters, but would you expect that much diversity in an English 1980s village? I would certainly read more in the series.

Thank you to Orion for approving me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Murder Before Evensong” was published on 09 June 2022.