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Werner | 485 comments Another genre which has a strong Christian presence, which we haven't started a thread to explore until now, is the mystery genre. (That slow start stems partly from the fact that, although I like mysteries, I'm not really well-read in mystery fiction --a neglect I hope eventually to remedy!) It's not surprising that this type of fiction would appeal to Christian writers. Traditional mysteries have an ethical orientation that recognizes evil as evil, but treats it as essentially an aberration of the moral and social order --an aberration that can be unmasked and set right by the responsible actions of the hero/heroine. And like the Scholastics and other philosophers in the mainstream Christian tradition, mystery writers have been respectful of the role of reason and logical deduction as a means of ascertaining and witnessing to the truth. Points of contact between the two traditions are obvious.

Originating in the 19th-century short detective stories of Edgar Allan Poe, mystery fiction was popularized around the turn of the 20th century by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Holmes canon. But a contemporary second only to Doyle in popularity was Roman Catholic author Gilbert Keith Chesterton, with his series character Father Brown, the first of many clerical detectives. The Father Brown stories, such as "The Blue Cross" and "The Invisible Man," were collected in book form in four volumes, and are all included in The Father Brown Omnibus.

The genre burgeoned between the World Wars, and a devout Anglican Christian, Dorothy Sayers, was a major mystery maven of that era. (Her main series character, aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey, appears in a number of novels and stories, including "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head," one of the best buried treasure mysteries I've ever read.) In the decades during and after World War II, the leading mystery authors of the day included two more Roman Catholic writers: Anthony Boucher, author of the mystery novels The Case of the Seven of Calvary and Rocket Ship to the Morgue (the latter set in the Los Angeles science-fiction community of Boucher's day --he was also a major SF writer and critic) and Notre Dame professor Ralph McInerney, creator of clerical sleuth Father Dowling. I haven't read any of the mystery writings of either gentleman --but I greatly enjoyed the TV series Father Dowling, inspired by the latter.

In the later 20th century, the creation of the whole historical mystery sub-genre was inspired by the work of Anglican author Dame Edith Pargeter (known, as a mystery writer, by her pen name Ellis Peters). She was the author of a series of medieval mysteries, beginning with A Morbid Taste for Bones, featuring Brother Cadfael, Benedictine monk, herbalist, and student of forensics and human nature. The general proliferation of Christian fiction in the last forty years or so has had some significant spillover into the mystery genre as well.

If anyone wants to comment or ask about mystery fiction by the older Christian writers mentioned above (or others), or by the contemporary heirs of their mantle, whether they publish with ECPA or other specifically Christian presses or not, this is the place --or at least a good starting place!-- to do it. :-)


Tiffany | 6 comments I love mysteries and I love Christian books, but often don't find crossovers. Writer, Mindy Starns Clark, does some fun, modern, romantic mysteries. She has at least two series starting with: The Trouble with Tulip or A Penny for Your Thoughts. It looks like there may be a third series but I don't know what the first book is.


Swantje (swan4) | 5 comments I think Alexander McCall Smith is a Christian. I like his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series.


Tiffany | 6 comments Has anyone read Cecil Murphey? I am reading an excellent non-fiction book by him and saw that he has some Christian mysteries as well. I am hoping to check them out soon.


Werner | 485 comments Tiffany, I'd never heard of Cecil Murphey, but thanks for making us aware of his work!

My just recently finished reading of my first book- length collection of Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries, The Innocence of Father Brown (which I reviewed here on Goodreads, if anyone's interested), has definitely increased my appreciation of him as a writer in this genre. I particularly like his smooth integration of Christian elements into the texture of his stories.


Tiffany | 6 comments I just read Everybody Loved Roger Harden which is the first in Cecil Murphey's Christian mystery series. I enjoyed it. It definitely was more fluff than anything, but it was great for working an overnight and kept me awake and entertained.


Mary JL (MaryJL) | 14 comments There is a series by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie. The first two are "A Novena for Murder" and "An Advent of Dying".

The main character is Sister Mary Helen, a retired nun , doing a little bit of volunteer work on the local college campus, and a lot of detecting. Her years of teaching have made her a clever observer of human nature.

There are, I believe, eight total books in the series. They are light, easy reads, but well written. Lots of humor and good interaction among the characters.


Werner | 485 comments Mary JL, I'd heard of O'Marie's work, but never read any of it. (Sister Mary Helen stands in what is, by now, a long and honorable tradition of clerical detectives.) Thanks for sharing your take on this series!


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Trouble With Tulip (other topics)
A Penny for Your Thoughts (other topics)
Everybody Loved Roger Harden (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Mindy Starns Clark (other topics)
Cecil Murphey (other topics)