Click here to read reviewer Dave Roy's take on Bones in the Belfry.
Generally, I enjoy novels that use religious leaders as their humble and genuinely normal protagonists. Usually, such characters stick to the creeds of life
typical to people in their position and behave in a manner that is both kind as
well as somewhat comedic. The most recently well-known fictional character
meeting this description is Father Tim from Jan Karonís Mitford Series. For readers
who enjoy that series, stick to it! Those who are more open-minded as far as a vicar who represents the opposite of Father Tim, read on. When reading the short summary on Bones in the Belfry,
my immediate interpretation was that Reverend Francis Oughterard gets involved in crimes and helps solves them. UnfortunatelyÖ
Reverend Francis is a pill-downing, chain-smoking, alcoholic murderer who now finds himself abetting an art thief by hiding the stolen works in his belfry. While under normal circumstances the reverend would never agree to store the objects, the unfortunate hold the thief has on him gives him no choice of refusal. When the house down the street is rented, all hell finally breaks loose for the tortured vicar.
Enter the ever-obnoxious Mrs. Tubbly Pole, a mystery writer intent on getting down to the bottom of last yearís local murder and writing a smashing good book
based on it. Her main source of information for the research will be none other than the Reverend, who unbeknownst to her
is the unidentified murderer. Now Reverend Francis must monitor the proceedings of Mrs. Tubbly Pole, keep the secret paintings from being found,
hold his secrets safe, and deal with the strain of the law closing in.
Adding to the confusion are the unusual perspectives of the dog and cat that bound themselves to Reverend Francis after the murder. Their actions and perceptions are somewhat intriguing and add a little humor to the events of the Vicarís life, but not much. They are happy with the
current arrangements and want to keep them as such.
It's difficult to like the Vicarís character. There has been a lot of hypocrisy, evil, and failed clergy publicly identified over the last several years within many major church organizations. To use a character so symbolic of those disheartening religious leaders
is a gutsy move on Hill's part. The overall tone of the novel is supposed to be slightly comedic, but in all frankness, it
isnít. Even the added memoirs of the cat and dog do little to draw the reader away from the protagonistís total absorption in getting away with murder, hiding stolen art, and behaving like a criminal
instead of a spiritual leader. Not recommended to readers who have any faith in clergy or the church.