- Title: Hope, Faith & a Corpse
- Author: Laura Jensen Walker
- Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
- Publication Day: January 12, 2021
- Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
- Genre: Cozy Mystery
In the tradition of M. C. Beaton, Hope Taylor, pastor of a small-town California church, tries to find out who sent a church elder to Heaven.
Hope Taylor arrives in Apple Springs to start her new life as the first female pastor of Faith Chapel Episcopal Church. The northern California town’s quaint cottages, bungalows, and shops promise a fresh start for the 42-year-old widow and Bogie, her scruffy black Labrador. But where is Father Christopher? The kindly old rector who hired Pastor Hope was supposed to meet her upon her arrival, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Hope’s faith springs eternal, so she explores the little white church hoping to find Father Christopher. But when she enters the columbarium, she instead finds church elder Stanley King–his skull crushed by a fallen burial urn.
Hope had made Stanley’s acquaintance before, and had struggled to take a charitable view of his character. Stanley was as wicked as he was wealthy, as petty as he was pious. His soul may have been holy, but his behavior was wholly rotten. The last time Hope had seen him, he had shouted drunkenly that she would preach at Faith Chapel over his dead body.
Many of the townsfolk witnessed the altercation, so Hope finds herself as the prime suspect in Stanley’s murder. With Bogie’s four-footed assistance, Hope is determined to find the real killer and clear her name…even if it will require a bit of divine intervention.
I love a good ecclesiastical mystery. Father Brown, Alison Golden’s Reverend Annabelle Dixon, Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael, I read them all. (The Father Brown TV show was pretty awesome, too.) And now, I can add Episcopal priest Hope Taylor to the list.
This book was DELIGHTFUL. I could not have enjoyed it more if there were two of me to read it twice. Hope gets off on the wrong foot as the new pastor of Faith Chapel Episcopal Church when she shows up for her first day on the job, finds the body, and ends up as a suspect right off the bat. Even worse, she has the audacity to be…a WOMAN.
The corpse, one Stanley King, shows up early on, and Hope doesn’t remain the prime suspect for long. Everybody in town seems to have had an axe to grind with the decedent (or the King, as he liked to be called). His children, Todd and Samantha. His brother-in-law, James. Marjorie, the old guard of Faith Chapel, and no fan of either Stanley or Hope. So lots of people had reason to not mourn his passing. But who actually struck the killing blow?
Ms. Walker does an admirable job of laying down trails that make you think you’ve figured out whodunnit and then going another way, and she does so while giving you a vivid picture of life and people in a small town. Hope is an extremely likable character. You get snippets of her thought life as she talks to herself, usually after she’s committed some unintentional social faux pas. That made me feel like I knew her a little better, and like she’d be someone I’d sit down with for coffee and pie at Suzie’s (although Hope would have tea).
And one thing I truly enjoyed about this book was the faith aspect. Not only is it clean in the sense that there’s no swearing, no 18+ themed material, it also has a main character who actually talks about her faith. Sure, she’s a pastor, so we know she has faith. But it isn’t shuffled off to the side or implied. Hope talked about times where she held off on a decision or action and God confirmed what she’d thought to do. I find that positively refreshing!
A lot of people may have the notion that “Christian fiction” doesn’t always make for great reading. Perish that thought here. Hope, Faith & a Corpse is a cracking good read, well written, set in a believable world, with characters that are just like the folks you might see in your hometown. I hope Ms. Walker has more of Apple Springs and Pastor Hope to share with us – I’ll be first in line to read.
Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance reader copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.