Book – Muder Before Evensong

Author – Rev Richard Coles

Pages – 359

Year – 2022

Genre – Crime

Borrowed from Dartford Library

In an exciting move that should have probably been much more obvious to book lovers such as ourselves, we recently decided to join our local library. I was incredibly excited, much as I often was as a kid when my sisters and I would be taken along to select some new books to borrow. We spent a good hour or so perusing titles, and picked a decent number to take home to add to our already overflowing To Read piles. But with a return deadline looming, tucking into this pile seemed an excellent idea.

And I guess on the plus side, it means I didn’t have to pay for this travesty of a book.

I like Richard Coles. I am very much not a religious person, and often fret about the way that some people use religion as a tool in a way I don’t like. But Coles has always seemed to have a more open mind, and I enjoy his tweeting. When he decided to take the Richard Osmond route of releasing a series of novels about a rector sleuth – Canon Daniel Clement – I was immediately intrigued to see if he could replicate the ‘nice little murder’ feel of his celebrity counterpart.

And this book has all the hallmarks of just that. A quaint little village with Clement as it’s spiritual guidance reels from the shocking revelation that he has plans to build a toilet in their little church! Much consternation from the Flower Society who want to use that space to be able to more carefully curate their beautiful blooms. What will they do when one of their number is brutally murdered?

Well this is a great question for the first third of the book when no murder has taken place. Just the ins and outs of the lives of these people, building not a lot of consequence. And when the murder finally does take place, despite the surprise and shock, things almost seem to just go back to normal. The rector continues his job as ever, and it quickly becomes idle gossip amongst the people of the village. This sort of continues throughout, with very little of note happening across its far too many pages. Every time there is a twist, it seems so low stakes simply by the reaction of the characters.

So let’s skip on to the main crux of any murder mystery book like this – the murder mystery. The real joy of these books is working out who has the motive and means to carry out such a thing, hopefully culminating in a twist of a reveal in the end that was cunningly hinted at all along. Unfortunately in this book, you are never really given any reason to wonder who it might have been at any point. A couple of characters are decidedly ‘shady’, but outside of this you don’t have any reason to suspect anyone. Add to this the fact that there are so few characters with any identifying features, and I found myself wondering if there was ever going to be a reveal.

I suppose it deserves credit for the fact that there is. But when it comes, it not a lot more than underwhelming. Full credit to anyone who read it and worked out who the murderer was, because to my mind it simply could have been anyone – including after the reveal. It is just one of the people in the book who did it for a reason. So wholly unsatisfying.

To give Coles some credit, his writing is not bad in terms of the prose. He is evidently a capable writer, but just one with no real idea how to structure a book or get across the characters that he has created to his readers. As a result, this is probably one of the worst books that I have ever read, and leaves you with the distinct impression that were he not a celebrity in his own right, this may have never seen itself sat upon the library shelf.