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by Kate Charles
Allison and Busby, April 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0749083778

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

You don't need to have a religious bone in your body to enjoy this riveting and topical ecclesiastical mystery by Kate Charles. EVIL INTENT is set in central London around Mayfair, Bayswater and Paddington, where Callie Anson has her first appointment as a curate, and where the clergy are at each others' throats, literally perhaps.

Callie knows she will have to face up to parishioners and fellow priests who are opposed to women in the clergy, but she has moral support in the shape of her friend Frances Cherry, a hospital chaplain, and Frances's mentor Leo Jackson, a larger than life archdeacon who was born in the West Indies, and unbeknownst to most of his associates, is gay.

When Callie is invited to attend a service and lecture by the Clergy Chapter her greatest concern is that she knows she will run into Adam her former fiancÚ with whom she went through Liturgical College but who recently ended their relationship in favour of another woman. It turns out to be an enlightening encounter, but not the most dramatic event of an evening filled with viciously-heated exchanges and ultimately murder.

Almost immediately Frances becomes the chief suspect, to the delight of many of her fellow clergymen. The police are suspicious that she and Leo are keeping a secret from them which might scupper their joint alibi, and wonder if they are having an affair. But the secret is that Leo has fallen in love with a man many years his junior, and Frances is apprehensive that the man may not be as discreet as Leo thinks.

The tale is told from multiple points of view as we follow the police investigation, the researches of a tabloid journalist, and the lives of Callie, her friends and other members of the clergy and their families. It is skilfully done, so that the reader is never disappointed when one viewpoint ends and another begins; all of them are interesting and the plot progresses quickly and intriguingly.

I enjoyed reading about Callie's first steps in getting to know her parish and about her relationship with her family, and Marco, a family liaison officer for the Metropolitan Police who seems to have become an instant friend, and certainly helps divert her thoughts from Adam. There is a wonderful selection of battling clergymen to get to know too.

A modern and topical mystery in the traditional style, EVIL INTENT is a cracking good read.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, May 2005

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