Some books what I have read

Raven BlackWhen we were on Iona I thought I’d have another go at Wolf Hall but no, I just couldn’t get into it. Something about it is just not grabbing me at the beginning when I know I have a pile of murder mysteries waiting. So I gave up after 3 nights of reading the first few pages over and over again and tore into the first in the Shetland Quartet by Ann Cleeves: Raven Black.  Now there is a bit of a similarity with the Lewis Trilogy by Peter May in that it is set on a Scottish island although Cleeves does not give us as much of the ‘tourist info’ that May does.

I discovered as I was half way through that some of it seemed familiar. That was because it was made into a BBC drama called ‘Shetland’ which I watched a few months ago. I much preferred the book to the TV programme.

Teenager Catherine is found dead in the middle of a Shetland winter. Elderly Magnus Tait, a simple soul with a secret, is an easy target. Enter Jimmy, the lonely detective and watch the story unfurl. Great character analysis and good suspense. I didn’t guess whodunnit at all.

I’ve put the rest of the Quartet on my wish list. 4 stars.

The next book I read was Simon Parke’s A Vicar Crucified. I’m a fan of Parke’s column in the Church Times. He was a CofE vicar who gave it up and worked in a supermarket for a few years, I think. Sometimes that is tempting to me too.  He is also a fan of the Enneagram, of which I know little but always mean to find out more.  He has published a few books on various subjects including Pippa’s Progress which I really enjoyed. I think his Publisher suggested Crime as it always sells so this is the first in the upcoming Abbot Peter mysteries. (Oh how we love a series of murder mysteries.)

The blurb says this:

Abbot Peter has recently swapped leadership of a remote monastery in the Sinai desert for retirement in the bleak and stormy English seaside town of Stormhaven.

When the local vicar is discovered crucified naked, in the vestry, the Abbot is invited to act as a Special Witness investigator. He partners the attractive and ambitious Detective Inspector Tamsin Shah – and discovers a surprising connection along the way.

Shocked by such cruel death, the church community adjusts to the knowledge that the murderer is one of them. The curate? The bishop? The treasurer? As cold waves crash against the winter shoreline, suspicion replaces friendship at St Michaels: no one safe and no one trusted. Abbot Peter believes the mystical nine-point enneagram symbol can help. But as the ravenous press descends on the town and secrets unravel, there will be more victims and a desperate climax before the hidden truth becomes clear.

I read it quite quickly because I enjoyed the style of writing and humour and who doesn’t want to know which of the Vestry or clergy dunnit? I’m not sure that the Enneagram stuff added anything to it and the book could easily have done without it. For me anyway but that might be because I don’t know much about it. (Other than being told I’m probably a 4?) Again I didn’t guess the killer and it did seem a little unlikely. Don’t let that put you off because on the whole, most of it was really good. 4 stars for the churchy stuff.


Pippa’s Progress

Pippa's ProgressI never read Pilgrim’s Progress. I think it may have been in a box of Classics at home and I have a vague recollection that I once started it, but soon abandoned it. I may have been about 14 at this time and frankly Daphne du Maurier was much more luring then.

However, I have just finished Pippa’s Progress by Simon Parke (the columnist in the Church Times and good egg, by the sounds of it).  The blurb says:

Times have changed since John Bunyan wrote his classic Pilgrim’s Progress, telling of Pilgrim’s journey up the Hill of Difficulty and through the Slough of Despond to the Celestial City. Yet people in their millions still seek meaning in their lives and speak of journeying towards a goal. Everyone on earth seeks a heaven. This is the story of the journey of Pippa, a 21st-century Pilgrim. Simon Parke’s witty and insightful modern-day re-telling of Pilgrim’s Progress follows the original’s premise of a pilgrim’s journey to heaven, but this time through the trials and temptations of our secularised, postmodern culture. With plenty of advice and direction, not all of it helpful, from the likes of Glossy Mags, Shaw Thynge and Dee Straction, Pippa’s epic journey along the Path of Yortether includes stops at Headspin’s Hallucinatory Mental Circus, the Rock of Hidden Self, the city of Socialmeja and the village of Lower Bile.

I loved this book and fairly romped through it. However, it is one of those books that requires a more thorough study or you are in danger of missing some real gems among its pages. At some time I think I need to go through it again with a pencil this time, underlining and marking passages of note. I’m sure there’s plenty sermon material in here too. And lots of ‘Aha’ moments too.

If you are a reader of Parke’s column you will also know he has a delicious sense of humour which is also evident in Pippa’s Progress. I think this would also make a good Confirmation present – or adapted as a course perhaps?