Book Review: Death in the Shadows (A Father Gilbert Mystery, Book 2), by Paul McCusker

Publisher:  Lion Hudson

Publication date:  19th August 2016

death-in-the-shadows-book-review

death-in-the-shadows-by-paul-mccusker-coverOh we do like to be beside the seaside, don’t we? Englesea is no exception and this venue’s been particularly lively of late, or deadly if you’ve read the book summary.

There’s plenty to discover in the town, like the unique brand of graffiti desecrating St Sebastian’s, or the local ‘spa’ offering a very personal service to its visitors. And if that doesn’t occupy your time, you could try searching for someone’s missing daughter, get caught in the middle of a turf war featuring sex traffickers, and skirt dangerously close to the identity of a serial killer who is eluding police. This is without mentioning impromptu apparitions tipping you off that things are not as they seem. Not bad for a three day religious conference focussing on ‘issues facing the church’, eh?!

Father Louis Gilbert gets to endure all these traumas and more during his brief stay for the conference and is enticed into investigative matters, despite the Bishop indicating he should be paying more attention to preaching than policing. His previous experience left a lasting impression on his parish in book 1 (The Body Under the Bridge), so Gilbert debates whether to resist the forewarnings he’s experiencing once again. But it’s difficult for this ex-detective-turned-vicar to walk away when his intuition says it would be foolish to ignore the signs after what happened last time.

While reading the morning newspaper headlining the murder of a young woman he notices the detective in charge is none other than his old mentor from Scotland Yard. But when the young woman herself makes a rather grim appearance in the dining room as he’s contemplating his continental breakfast, Father Gilbert feels compelled to act and pops to the local police station to make ‘casual enquiries’. Gilbert and Gwynne provide excellent banter throughout, but a man of the cloth sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong leads him into all kinds of trouble!

For the most part he’s silently tormented and risks his integrity when the sinister undertones continue. Father Gilbert is aware that if his odd visions became public, it would leave him open to ridicule or of questionable mental health, and that’s not the best outcome professionally. His successes and failures are amplified by a watcher in the shadows, waiting to see how he performs. And no, it’s not the Bishop keeping a beady eye on him!

Although stepping on the toes of the criminal underworld and their sordid activities carries immense risk, he must have faith that his meddling will bring about change and can only hope that his intervention will free people from their hideous existence and not condemn them. But Father Gilbert is only human and he can’t save everyone’s soul. And that’s why I love his character, as he’s both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time: he also misjudges situations, has colourful family origins, and frequently ignores the ‘right thing’.

Death in the Shadows is a solidly layered mystery that keeps its feet firmly on the ground, despite the supernatural element. The contemporary themes and zero profanity combination make a refreshing change, yet it still has plenty of kick and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for him next.

Rating: 4/5 (Could be read as a standalone, should you wish.)

(I received a paperback copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review, with my thanks.)

death-in-the-shadows-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When Father Gilbert traded in his detective’s badge for an Anglican priest’s collar, he never expected he would be pulled into a different kind of mystery – the mystery of the spiritual world. Even attending a conference in a seaside town provides no escape as he has yet another supernatural encounter, this time with a murdered girl who worked at a local massage parlour. Details of the murder lead Father Gilbert to approach the police with clues in common with other cases, bringing him into contact with a detective from his days with Scotland Yard.

Meanwhile, a local monastery has been vandalized, with grotesque images and profane graffiti defacing the altar and walls. The head of the monastery, from whom Father Gilbert received spiritual direction a couple of years before, is distressed by the attack, accusing the local sex trade industry of retaliating against his outspoken stand against it. Then, one of the brothers at the monastery is found dead in the local red light district. All evidence points to his having been a regular at a massage parlour – the same one where the murdered girl had worked. Intertwined within this web is a young woman who sees the same apparitions that Father Gilbert thought only he could see, plus an obstinate runaway, a distraught father, and a deep corruption pervading the town. And, whether he likes it or not, Father Gilbert is at the centre of it all.

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death-in-the-shadows-author-profile

(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Paul McCusker is the creative content director for Focus on the Family. He has been a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and drama since 1979. His work includes over forty published novels, full-length plays, dramatic sketch collections, and song lyrics. For the Adventures in Odyssey series alone, he has written over 200 half-hour radio episodes, eighteen novels, and two screenplays for the best-selling animated videos. He has dramatized many classics for Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, including A Christmas Carol and Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford. He also wrote and directed the Peabody Award–winning Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom and created the highly acclaimed Father Gilbert Mysteries series.

Paul lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children.

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Also Available, the first of the Father Gilbert Mysteries…

The Body Under The Bridge - Kindle Cover

Book Review: The Body Under the Bridge (A Father Gilbert Mystery, Book 1), by Paul McCusker

Publisher:  Lion Hudson   |   Publication date: 20th November 2015

Body under the Bridge My Review

The Body Under The Bridge - Kindle CoverAn exquisitely written murder mystery of a mild paranormal persuasion, that’s the best description I can muster for this book! Being drenched in local history, longstanding family feuds emerge to take centre stage. With a nod toward a deathly curse, a trio of curious artefacts connected to Cromwell are sure to bring tragedy to the door of St Mark’s Church.

Father Gilbert’s ex-detective instincts battle with his logic after a series of disturbing visions are bestowed upon him. Following the death of his wife, his faith is forever intact and he’s ever the professional, taking his duties seriously. So when he is called to the aide of a parishioner, who is threatening to jump from the tower of the church, he rushes there without delay. What awaits him is a distraught fellow by the name of Colin Doyle, who after an odd conversation exchange, hands Father Gilbert a gold medallion. Shortly afterwards, Doyle jumps to his death. Gilbert calls for his staff to assist, but peculiarly there is no body and it’s determined that Colin Doyle could not have jumped, as he was discovered later, hanging in his garage at home.

And then a body appears on Lord Haysham’s land, a body under a bridge. It’s clear it’s been there since a bygone era.  The ground had already been disturbed before the police arrive on the scene, pressing a further investigation as to why.

More sinister experiences later for both Gilbert and those around him, it seems pentagrams are becoming a popular theme after being discovered at the scene of the most recent crimes. This, plus the rivalry of two families spanning centuries are keeping a so-called curse alive, threatening to haunt Father Gilbert and bring St Mark’s into disrepute. Even the police investigators are competing against one another. It seems this case is bringing out the worst in everyone.

Through sheer tenacity, together with Father Benson’s chauffeuring skills and the watchful eye of the church secretary, who throws a cold stare at the flirtatious artefact expert, Mary Aston, Gilbert must restore order and get to the bottom of the so-called resurrected curse. The task is made more difficult as he is expending precious energy trying to resist Mary’s charms. Gilbert just needs to remember to take a service every now and then before his secretary becomes even more restless!

Exactly how far will the killer be prepared to take their duty is anyone’s guess. One thing’s for sure, good and evil will clash swords and the lives of those who remain connected to the investigation hang precariously by a thread. The paranormal connotations are subtle yet enough to make an impact, and given the church’s unofficial investigation it goes without saying there’ll be references to religion, but it’s not presented in a preachy tone.

This is a genuine, brooding mystery concerning an inheritance that no one wants. The drama unfurls magnificently, with a dash of witty dialogue and a wonderful host of varied characters it kept me engrossed. If you like your crime approached in a traditional way while still having some meat on its bones, then you won’t go far wrong with A Body Under The Bridge.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Rhoda at Lion Hudson for providing this atmospheric-looking paperback copy for review. Much appreciated.)

Body under the Bridge Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A former Scotland Yard detective, Father Gilbert knows about death. But, now a priest of a modest Anglican church in the small town of Hailsham, he didn’t expect it to show up like this – in the suicide of a man who threw himself off the church tower, and in the discovery of a two-hundred-year-old body beneath an ancient bridge.

The deaths are linked. The mummified corpse under the bridge, a murder victim, reignites a centuries-old battle between two local families – the Todds and the aristocratic Hayshams. Then both David Todd and Lord Haysham begin to act strangely. They are fearful for reasons they won’t explain.

When Lord Haysham is murdered, David Todd is the prime suspect. But Todd is acting maniacal, claiming great forces of evil are at work. An entire history of violence and depravity begins to emerge – interweaving the history of several local families with a secret occult society that engages in Black Masses. Has the Society emerged again?

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Body under the Bridge Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Paul McCusker is Creative Director at Focus on the Family. He has sold more than a million books and twenty million audio dramas. His name is also heard daily on radio stations all over the world, and by at least two million listeners every weekend through the Adventures in Odyssey series.

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