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.