Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: Reverend Randollph and the Fall from Grace, Inc.

(Blogjob tags: 1970’sCharles Merrill Smithdetective story,murder mysterynovels about ChristiansReverend Randollph series.)

Title: Reverend Randollph and the Fall from Grace, Inc. 
(Amazon doesn't have an image of this third of the seven Reverend Randollph books. Here's volume one in the series, just to appease Google +'s craving for graphics...if you click on the picture, it should open a link to the volume three, the book reviewed here.)
Author: Charles Merrill Smith
Date: 1978
Publisher: Putnam
ISBN: none
Length: 223 pages
Quote: "The Reverend Doctor Prince Hartman--I suppose he is a reverend doctor--has applied to our denomination for recognition of his clerical orders...Yes, the television evangelist, pastor of The Cathedral of God's Grace, president of Grace University, president of Grace Theological Seminary, and president of Grace, Incorporated."
And, on top of all that, the pushy televangelist's motive for seeking official recognition by the denomination is to boost his credibility for a venture into politics. That's enough to turn some church members against him, Reverend Randollph is advised when he starts vetting Dr. Hartman...but does anyone actually want to kill Hartman?
Well...yes, because this is a murder mystery.
Charles Merrill Smith, a retired minister who'd written seven nonfiction books for Christians, spent his last years writing detective stories about Christians. There might have been more than seven if he'd lived longer; there was no plan to dedicate one novel to each of the Seven Deadly Sins, although Reverend Randollph often reminds people that there are seven, that he doesn't use "sin," as some of his older contemporaries still did, as a euphemism for "sex." As things were, however, the last of the seven novels was finished by Smith's heirs, and if you want to solve each of the mysteries along with Randollph, an understanding of how the Seven Deadly Sins become deadly may help.
By counting these novels about Christians as Christian books that this web site will publicize on Sundays, I'm not representing them as Sunday School books or claiming that reading them is the spiritual discipline of lectio. I am recognizing that some of the characters are Christians who talk about, and act upon, their religious beliefs in the course of the stories. The Reverend Randollph books are still detective stories, in which the retired football player turned minister relies on help from the bishop, the policeman, and the TV news hostess.
These books are not especially rare. I have six of the seven, because a local library decided to discard the set after losing one volume. They're not Fair Trade Books, and it's still necessary for me to charge $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, just as if I were sending ten percent of the total price to a living author, anyway. They are standard-sized novels for adults: four books fit into one $5 package. This, however, means that if you want all six books you may add some Fair Trade Books to one of the packages.