Saturday, 19 March 2011

Clerical Errors by D.M. Greenwood

What a delicious discovery! Ostara Publishing (wonderful name!) has a whole list of “clerical crime” so I chose to start with D.M. Greenwood’s Clerical Errors, and I couldn’t be happier. Julia Smith decides to begin her working life as junior secretary to Canon Wheeler, at Medewich Cathedral. Julia’s bright, but young, and ill-qualified, and she’s mystified by the workings of the Anglican church. For me it brings back an earlier life: at around Julia’s age I found myself, with an austere Church of Scotland background, abruptly pitched into the midst of Anglicanism in a cathedral close. For a little more than a year I resisted the lure of ritual, the daily call to evensong, the canons in their red cassocks against the green grass and pale stone – if I hadn’t been living with an atheist my own agnosticism would have been swamped. Unlike Julia, I didn’t find a severed head on my first day (though I did meet a couple of light-fingered clerics over the course of the next year), but nor did I meet the charismatic Theodora Braithwaite, deaconess, for whom I instantly fell. Because it’s a world to which I’m still susceptible, on the page, at least - I adore the in jokes, the ramifications of the church’s workings, the Trollopian dramatis personae ... I lap up clerical crime the way others do school stories.

Canon Wheeler, Julia’s employer, is odious, a bully, an ambitious manipulator. Fortunately, Julia can see through him from the outset, and though her lack of self-confidence won’t allow her to trust her own judgement, she has allies within the cathedral administration, including the redoubtable Theodora. There may be loathsomeness here, but the author also creates characters whose goodness shines, a real reward to the reader. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to read about truly good people, but if you’re reading this, then I suspect you are probably similarly predisposed.

I read this on Quoodle-the-Kindle, and have another three in the series still to come, which pleases me enormously. My only problem is whether to rush ahead and read them all now, or to intersperse them with others from Ostara's list. If I have a single regret with Clerical Errors it's that I can't enjoy its pleasant cover on my bookshelf.

10 comments:

  1. What a great discovery. Clerical mysteries fascinate me - I've downloaded some samples to try them out. Thanks for the link

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  2. I don't think I have ever read a crime story set in a clerical environment, but you make it sound really interesting.
    How come Julia was employed as the canon's secretary if she is so ill-qualified? I bet if someone applies to a church-related job here, they at least have to be a member of the same religion as their potential employer - but that's regulations-obsessed Germany for you :-)

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  3. Margaret, I have a feeling that it's Martin Edwards we should thank for my discovery. I know someone mentioned the publisher, and suspect that it was Martin.

    Librarian, she was a very junior secretary, but the book does have an explanation of why she gets the job :) and she would probably have, if asked, described herself as a member of the Church of England, but that's rather different from understanding the complexities of a very complicated hierarchy, as I found when I was suddenly confronted with that same hierarchy having talked my way into a job at the age of 17.

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  4. I love the Theodora Braithwaite books; had a lovely orgy of re-reading them last autumn and bought the missing ones from Amazon and eBay. I'd love to read more about Theo but nobody seems to know much about the author.

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  5. This sounds great! I'm an atheist who loves clerical crimes! :) I was interested to see that you read it on your Kindle. I'll just pop over to the Kindle store and see how much it is...

    Do you know Kate Charles' books? They're clerical crimes, too...

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  6. Sadly for my finances, Penny, it wasn't as cheap as some Kindle books, but that's because it comes from a small independent publisher, I guess, and I'm happy to support them whenever I can afford to.

    Ooh yes! I'd forgotten about Kate Charles' books! I think I've only read one, but liked it a lot. Shall have to read more, though I can almost guarantee the library won't be helpful, and it'll be a further dint in the finances - but at least I get to keep it then :) What I hadn't quite appreciated when I got Quoodle was that storage for books isn't quite the same problem - until I need a new hard disk!

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  7. I've just noticed that you're re-reading Hazel Holt! I had originally asked if you knew about her, in my comment above, but I accidentally deleted it and didn't have the heart or energy to re-write it all, so sent only a truncated version! :o(

    I love Hazel Holt and regularly re-read through all her books in order. Glad to know you enjoy them, too! :o)

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  8. Penny, I love Hazel Holt! I'm in stressed out mode this week (the conference that I run every year starts next Monday and I really don't want to be doing it) so I plunge into something really comforting. I love the detail in her books, and how chatty they are, it's just like a continued conversation. I'd love to have them all to go back to over and over again.

    Must admit the Kindle is great for the times when your reading habits go to pieces, because you can leave half-read books all over the place (well, I do that anyway, but it's less messy).

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  9. Just finished this one and thoroughly enjoyed it. Annoyingly my library doesn't have book 2 so I may have to shell out a few pennies for it for my Kindle. Thanks for the good review and recommendation!

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  10. I love clerical crime too & the Greenwoods were favourites of mine when they were first published. Ostara are doing a wonderful job of reprinting these & the Kate Charles series as well. I also love Hazel Holt.

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