Ecclesiastical Thrillers discussion

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Defining the Ecclesiastical Mystery

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message 1: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
So, what makes an Ecclesiastical Mystery? Is it enough if some of the action takes place in a church? Does the book have to have a spiritual theme?
Would a story about a Rabbi or a Buddhist monk be an ecclesiastical mystery?


message 2: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) I think Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small series would qualify as ecclesiastical, using the term broadly as meaning sacred as opposed to secular. I'd say all that's required is that the church (or synagogue, monastery or convent) or clergy, rabbi, nuns, or monks should be prominent in the story. It seems to me that all the mysteries I think of as ecclesiastical do more or less have a spiritual theme.


message 3: by Donna (last edited Mar 10, 2010 05:54PM) (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Sheila, do you want to add some Rabbi Small titles to our booklist? Have you read anything by Irene Schneider? (Hope I'm spelling her name right, but I know she's a rabbi.


message 4: by Carole (new)

Carole Streeter | 2 comments Do the Father Brown stories by Chesterton count in this category?

Or, the eight mysteries by Frank McInerny set on the campus of the University of Notre Dame?

Or, the Father Dowling mysteries also by Dr. McInerny?


message 5: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) Donna wrote: "Sheila, do you want to add some Rabbi Small titles to our booklist? Have you read anything by Irene Schneider? (Hope I'm spelling her name right, but I know she's a rabbi."

It's been a long time since I've read any of the Rabbi Small books, and I can't remember which ones. However, I do have a Mystery Guild volume that contains three of them that I haven't gotten around to yet. Haven't heard of Irene Schneider, but will look her up.


message 6: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) Carole wrote: "Do the Father Brown stories by Chesterton count in this category?

Or, the eight mysteries by Frank McInerny set on the campus of the University of Notre Dame?

Or, the Father Dowling mysterie..."


I think Chesterton's Father Brown stories qualify as ecclesiastical mysteries, since the main character is a priest.

But the Notre Dame mysteries by Ralph McInerny probably wouldn't. If I remember correctly, one of the protagonists (Philip) is a lawyer and other (Roger) a professor. But his Father Dowling mysteries would qualify.


message 7: by Donna (last edited Mar 11, 2010 11:12AM) (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Oh, yes! Father Brown! How could I forget to mention the classic! We could have a whole discussion group on Chesterton. There probably already are some.

Yes, and Father Dowling, too.

I'll add Father Brown and Father Dowling to our book shelf.

Also, what about Andrew Greely?


message 8: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Oh, I haven't read enough of Father Dowling. This discussion is proving valuable already!

Can someone tell me which titles to add to our bookshelf? I'm going to rrequest Ash Wednesday at our library right now.


message 9: by Carole (new)

Carole Streeter | 2 comments Donna,

Look at The Sacrifice by William Kienzle and several others by him. A Detroit priest solves the mysteries. Kienzle is a former priest.
How do I get my picture on this site?


message 10: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) I've read most of the Father Dowling mysteries, at least all of those available at the local library.

Ralph McInerny also wrote a fun mystery series under the name Monica Quill, featuring Sister Mary Teresa, who is quite an interesting character. Some of the titles are Nun Plussed, Half Past Nun, and Sister Hood.

Andrew Greeley writes the Bishop Blackie Ryan series. I've read some, but not nearly all, of them, and found them very entertaining. I'll have to look for more of them at the library.

And there's also the Father Koesler series by William X. Kienzle. One of them is The Rosary Murders. I really liked them, and have read them all.


message 11: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Smile. Upper right corner of your profile page, click the edit button, then it's pretty straightforward with the browse button.

I've never read William Kienzle, but since you recommend him I'll put The Sacrifice on our book shelf.


message 12: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
"Nuns on the Run and Priests on the Prowl" Great title for a book list of Ecclesiastical Thrillers! http://nevinsbooklists.wordpress.com/...

Certainly lots of names here that were new to me. And some of my favorites deleted. You'll note that they called Ellis Peters Elizabeth Peters--who is, of course, an entirely different author. But a big thumbs up for Brother Cadfael! Thank you for sending this, Carole.


message 13: by John (last edited Mar 11, 2010 06:50PM) (new)

John J. (johndesjarlais) | 1 comments My latest book would qualify. In BLEEDER, a stigmatic priest bleeds to death on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or bloody murder? Classics professor Reed Stubblefield needs to know. After all, police regard him as the prime person of interest in the mysterious death. He applies Aristotelian logic to find the truth. Clerics are minor characters in this story; the protagonist is a lapsed Presbyterian exploring the 'higher mystery' of undeserved suffering. The sequel I'm working on has a backdrop of Aztec mythology and Mexican Catholicism, though again, the protagonist is a lay person and not a cleric. -- Big fan of Susan Howatch's Church of England series and the more recent Healing Centre trilogy. These weren't 'thrillers' in terms of action but the psychological explorations are thrilling.

John Desjarlais
www.johndesjarlais.com


message 14: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Oh, John, what a great hook. A perfect addition to our book shelf. I look forward to reading it.


message 15: by Ron (new)

Ron Benrey | 1 comments Donna wrote: "So, what makes an Ecclesiastical Mystery? Is it enough if some of the action takes place in a church? Does the book have to have a spiritual theme?
Would a story about a Rabbi or a Buddhist monk..."


Ecclesiastical originally described any gathering of people, but much later came to mean pertaining to churches (especially the organization and government of churches). I would think an Ecclesiastical Mystery requires more than a mere clergyman or woman as sleuth; some aspect of the story should to involve church polity or politics. Mysteries set inside convents, monasteries, synods, conclaves, cathedrals, seminaries, sessions, even church choirs would probably qualify, but I'm a tad dubious about Father Brown -- I don't recall any F.B. stories that were actually ecclesiastical.

Ron


message 16: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Interesting, Ron. Well, Father Brown certainly used his understandings of human nature gained from being a priest to solve his murders.

Kate Charles is perhaps the best example of using church polity in her stories. I tend to side-step controversial issues. She hits them head-on through her characters' lives, which i find very interesting.


message 17: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) Donna wrote: "Sheila, do you want to add some Rabbi Small titles to our booklist? Have you read anything by Irene Schneider? (Hope I'm spelling her name right, but I know she's a rabbi."

Just found out her name is Ilene Schneider. She's written a mystery titled Chanukah Guilt.


message 18: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) Here's an example of how Father Brown uses his experience as a priest to solve crimes:

In "The Blue Cross," Fr. Brown is talking with the thief Flambeau, who is disguised as a priest. During the conversation, Flambeau denigrates the importance of reason, speculating that the universe is ultimately unreasonable. Of course, Fr. Brown realizes immediately that Flambeau is not really a priest, saying, "You attacked reason. It's bad theology."

Another giveaway is that Flambeau assumes that Fr. Brown, as a priest, must be a "celibate simpleton" who knows nothing of evil. Fr. Brown tells him, "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?"


message 19: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Sheila, you have hit on my two absolutely favorite Father Brown quotes! Thank you. I remember that Brother Cadfael sometimes came up with lines almost as good as well, but I can't call any of them up at the moment.


message 20: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) I've found three pieces that might be of interest in the latest issue of Mystery Scene (No. 113):

An article by Steven Steinbock on how the Father Brown stories brought a new moral and spiritual depth to the mystery genre.

In "Our Readers Recommend," an essay by Rick Spencer on Fr. Andrew Greeley's Blackie Ryan mysteries and why he likes them. The books feature Blackie's extended family and various others who are all "loving, tolerant, accepting and forgiving" and "take on all manner of evil-doers ... The plots are good, the endings always happy and surprising ... They are feel-good stories all the way: I always feel better about people after reading one of the Blackie Ryan mysteries." I haven't read nearly all of these, so I'm going to seek out more at the library.

Finally, an article about G.M. Malliet, author of Death of a Cozy Writer and two sequels, who is starting a new series about an Anglican vicar who lives in a small English village. It's a typical British cozy, except that the vicar is "a former MI5 agent seeking refuge from his violent past." Sounds intriguing!


message 21: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
An English vicar who is a former MI-5 agent. Ah, doesn't that sound great! A bit like Clare Ferguson with her army background, perhaps--which works so very well.

Sheila these articles sound great. Is Mystery Scene something online you could post a link to?


message 22: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) It's a print magazine. It does have a Web site, but it doesn't look like any articles from the current issue are available online yet. I think some of them will be posted online later. Here's the link:

http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/

The magazine is available in some mystery bookstores, and I'm pretty sure I've seen it at Barnes & Noble and Borders. And you can order individual issues, including the current one, from the Web site.


message 23: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
I started to post this under our "Thriller/Mystery/Cozy" discussion, but decided it fits best here. The discussion lines are blurry, aren't they?

I'm currently reading PRIEST by Ken Bruen. Hard-bitten noir set in Ireland. From the title one would think it might fit the Ecclesiatical Thriller subgenre, but I'm thinking a hard-hitting discussion of paedophile priests does not a Ecclesiastical make.


message 24: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) I read Bruen's PRIEST a few months ago. No, it's definitely not an ecclesiastical thriller!

Pretty soon I'm going to read the third in Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series. I've put it on my Goodreads to-read shelf so I'll remember.


message 25: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Ah, just finished Connie Willis' TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG. It will definitely make my 10 best of '10 list. And what a delight reading about Coventry Cathedral--then and now--and maybe in the future? A book that defies genre lists, but what do you think? Can we sneak it into Ecclesiastical Thriller status as well?


message 26: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG crosses so many genre and subgenre lines (mystery, fantasy, SF, Victorian novel, comedy, romance, adventure, time travel), I don't see any reason we can't add ecclesiastical thriller to the list!


message 27: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Hitch on Dorothy L said, "I think trying to cast TSNOTD as an ecclesiastical mystery is a quantum
stretch. It's a fun romp, but the only ecclesiastical
mystery is the disappearance of the godawful (groan--just can't resist lowly
punning) Bishop's bird stump, so my vote is NO. ;-)"

But I tend to agree with you, Sheila. I learned so much about Coventry Cathedral and loved the musing about the importance of cathedrals to society.

We can all agree with Hitch, though, that it's a fun romp.

My daughter-in-law said Doomsday Book is even better.


message 28: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
I found a great essay on Clerical mysteries. Amazing what a Google search can do! I recommend http://www.michaellister.com/Clerical...

Have any of you read Michael Lister? He wounds like a great author for this group.


message 29: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Beaumont (sheilabeaumont) That's a terrific essay! Thanks for the link, Donna. The name Michael Lister sounds familiar, but I haven't read anything by him yet.


message 30: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Nor have I, but i plan to do so soon. Watch this space.


message 31: by Donna (new)

Donna Crow | 25 comments Mod
Today I quote from this discussion group on my guest blog "What in the World is an Ecclesiastical Thriller?" http://ning.it/96cOqB Thank you for your imput.


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