Sunday, February 21, 2016

Book Review: Reverend Randollph and the Unholy Bible

(Blogjob tags: Chicago in fictiondetective storymurder mystery,novels about book collectorsnovels about Christiansnovels by ChristiansSeven Deadly Sins in fiction.)

Title: Reverend Randollph and the Unholy Bible 
Author: Charles Merrill Smith
Date: 1983
Publisher: Putnam
ISBN: 0-399-12796-8
Length: 221 pages
Quote: "Randollph...wanted to preserve this serene moment. Such moments were benedictions, ointments for spirits abraded by the troubles and tensions which are life's necessary and inevitable afflictions. It occurred to him that this thought was good sermon material."
Yes, today's Sunday book is a detective story...the idea of posting about Christian books on Sunday in no way implies that it would be possible (even if I were trying) to choose books that any given Christian will consider suitable for devotional reading. This novel was written by a Christian, about Christian characters, whose religious practice is part of the story. That does not mean that reading detective stories is what anyone might call a spiritual discipline.
Retired Methodist minister, Charles Merrill Smith, first published several serious books of Christian thought...about the reforms in religious thought he believed his parishioners could use. (His first book was titled How to Become a Bishop Without Being Religious, and it was followed by How to Talk to God When You Aren't Feeling Religious and When the Saints Go Marching Out.) Then, as a "retirement career," he started a series of detective novels featuring C.P. Randollph, a professional athlete (a quarterback) turned minister.
Nasty things happen to members of Reverend Randollph's Chicago parish, and although Reverend Randollph has plenty of church busy-ness, sermon writing, and counselling to do, he can't keep from trying to track down all those murderers his acquaintances seem to know. He has a lot of help from the first friends he's made in Chicago, Police Lieutenant Casey and TV news show hostess Samantha Stack.
Smith seems to have resisted the temptation to write the Reverend Randollph mysteries as a series of studies of the Seven Deadly Sins, even though Reverend Randollph frequently had to remind people that the classical Christian definition of "sin" was not "a euphemism for sex," as some churchgoing types in the 1970's sometimes seemed to think. In this story, the first murder victim is one of those rich old people who camouflage rare collection items--in this case a Gutenberg Bible--amidst hoards of junk. If you guess that solving the mystery will call upon your understanding of Avarice, you're on the right track.
This novel about book collectors is not yet a collector's item, although "new" copies are going into the collector price range. To buy it here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the very bottom of the screen. I have some of the other volumes in the series (a local library lost one volume and decided to discard the rest of the series); if you want the lot, send $20 for the four books that will fit in one package + $5 for the package. Unfortunately, Smith died halfway through the last book, which was finished by his heirs, so the Reverend Randollph mysteries are not Fair Trade Books.