Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Death of a Liturgist

When I originally saw this coming out from St. Benedict Press I was excited to read it. It had been a while since I had the time or motivation to read a fiction book but this one seemed right up my alley. For the most part, it was. At the parish where I play Saturday Vigil Mass we went from Gregorian Chant and greater solemnity to ... um ... not Gregorian Chant or (nearly any) solemnity in a matter of 5 minutes after the priest transfers, when I was told "never" with regards to the chant.

The story begins by us learning that St. Rita's parish will also be undergoing a pastor change. The long standing shepherd and his young assistant priest have for many years fostered a beautiful community with chant and more traditional forms of worship. When the new priest arrives he is inundated by people and duties. And so he hires someone, a liturgist, to handle some things for him. And the story really takes off from there. Eventually, as the title suggests, the liturgist ends up dead and the author, Lorraine Murray, leads us through the story with a full cast of interesting characters to suspect.

The character of the liturgist is obviously the antagonist of the book. He is the embodiment of evil. Chip is suave, charming, a tyrannic liberal, womanizing, and annoying to anyone who refuses to fall under his spell. He represents evil in a subtle and disturbing form: the kind which appears nice on the outside but is corrupt and mischievous on the inside.

The changes Chip Cambio make in the parish are things that have unfortunately happened in many places. But he doesn't just touch on liturgy - Chip goes after a whole lot more at St. Rita's. He tries to corrupt the women in the parish. What is it they say, that if you corrupt the women of a society the men will follow? (Just like Adam and Eve.) Chip goes after them in a big way and here I need to stop and say a little about issues of modesty.

I really liked the premise of the book. The story is timely and fast paced. But there were a few things I didn't like too. For instance Ms. Murray, being a woman, obviously writes from a female perspective. All of the men are physically described. Sometimes the women are described as well, in their upper parts. There is touching, cuddling, hand kissing (as a come-on), and woman-thoughts all over through the book. The words "erogenous zone" appear together in a sentence...which may upset some readers. Sometimes I would be reading along just fine and all of a sudden the realization would hit me that "I am inside a woman's head." So men reading this book, just a warning, you might feel a little odd at times. To the women, its not a romance novel but there is a good deal of romantic stuff between the covers. For-warned is for-armed as they say.

And just to finish up - I had solved the crime well before the end by piecing together the clues in the story. Ms. Murray actually did provide quite a few misleading paths during the book. It just so happens that I picked the right ones. But upon reaching the end that didn't bug me. I was actually pleased with myself for getting it so early.

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"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton