THE BLACK SERAPHIM by Michael Gilbert


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Dr. James Scotland, a young pathologist suffering from exhaustion, seeks a bit of rest in the cathedral town of Melchester, where he once taught--only to find the church and school in a tizzy of genteel tension. The primary feud: near-open hostilities between the Dean, a volcanic but genuinely spiritual sort (who suffered terribly as a missionary in Africa) and the new Archdeacon, a mover-and-shaker more interested in saving money than saving souls. And things get especially hot as the Cathedral's directors get ready to decide whether or not to sell some church land off for commercial development. (The Dean's opposed, of course; the Archdeacon leads the pro forces.) So, when the Archdeacon drops dead at a charity tea, James--falling in love with the Dean's snappy daughter--isn't quite ready to accept a verdict of natural causes: indeed, the pathologist's report eventually reveals nicotine in the coffee. But whodunit? The Dean himself, father of James' new beloved? Or one of the pushy Archdeacon's several other enemies? (He was virtually blackmailing, for instance, an aging curate with a tendency to write love, letters to schoolboys.) The puzzle, as it turns out, is only passable--certainly not in a class with Gilbert's last conventional mystery, The Killing of Katie Steelstock. But the cathedral/town politics are done up grandly; the large cast (reporters, gossips, clerics, schoolmasters, etc.) is sketched in with light comic finesse; and devotees of the most old-fashioned sort of English murder--complete with breezy romance--will find this eminently congenial.

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row