Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: Reverend Randollph and the Wages of Sin

Title: Reverend Randollph and the Wages of Sin 

Author: Charles Merrill Smith

Date: 1974

Publisher: Putnam

ISBN: none

Length: 254 pages

Quote: "[N]ow we've got a sex murder."

Although the seven novels in which Reverend Randollph tracks down an unusually high incidence of serial murderers in his parish weren't originally meant to reflect the classical list of Seven Deadly Sins--Smith hoped to live longer and write more of them--this first volume needed to grab readers' attention. Merely being a detective story by a popular Christian writer wasn't enough. In 1974 the way everyone thought readers' attention could be grabbed was by referring to the Deadly Sin of Lust.

So, after introducing Reverend Randollph, a liberal and ecumenical thinker whose first career was in pro football and who "doesn't look like a minister," and his future bride Samantha Stack, a divorced TV news reader who lets Randollph convince her that she's an agnostic rather than an atheist, the detective action in this novel begins with the naked corpse of a philandering church lady being found in the choir practice room.

The wronged husband is too obvious a suspect for seasoned murder mystery readers to consider. Smith had some (very pastoral) points to make about other ways lust affects people, anyway, and since he was known as a liberal churchman, he makes several of them in Wages of Sin.

As mentioned in the Blogjob posts where I reviewed some other volumes in this series, this is primarily a detective story, even though it was written by a Christian, about Christians, and much of the action takes place in a church. By scheduling a book review to appear on Sunday I'm not claiming that reading it qualifies as Christian lectio for anybody--I'm actually affirming that, although I can show Christian content on Sundays, I have no right to prescribe what may or may not qualify as Christian lectio for anybody. (Serious lectio, however, is slower than novel reading, so those engaged in it don't need a different book every week!)

This is not a Fair Trade Book; however, if you send $5 per copy + $5 per package to the address at the very bottom of the screen, we can fit other books into the same package, including Fair Trade Books.