Saturday, August 20, 2016

Unhallowed Murder: Review

Unhallowed Murder (1966) is the final in a series of academically inclined detective novels by Simon Nash.  Nash is the pen name, formed from the maiden names of his two grandmothers, used by Raymond Chapman, Emeritus Professor of English at London University and an Anglican priest, for five mystery novels published in the 1960s. Professor Chapman worked as a non-stipendiary priest in Southwark, and was on the staff at St Mary's Barnes in Southwest London. His police detectives are Inspector Montero and Sergeant Jack Springer, unofficially aided by the gifted amateur and lecturer at North London College, Adam Ludlow. For more information on Nash/Chapman check out gadetection.  I owe Jon (author of the post) a great debt--previously when I went searching for information on Nash, there was pretty much nothing to be found.  Jon  did his own bit of detective work and tracked Chapman to his post at St. Mary's in 2012.

Unlike the previous three mysteries by Nash (I have yet to get my hands on Dead Woman's Ditch), Unhallowed Murder begins with Inspector Montero rather than Adam Ludlow. Montero and Jack Springer are called upon to investigate a series of acts of vandalism perpetrated in a local London church. It looks very much like a bunch of Satanists have taken the place over for nightly Black Magic rituals. But before they can even interview the aged Vicar he is found shot to death in his parish office. There are several likely candidates for chief murderer--from the young curate who resented having to wait for his parish home to parish council members who thought perhaps the Vicar's personal fortune might be better left to the church sooner than later to the woman on the council who distrusted his "Romish ways" to the nephew who also could use his piece of uncle's legacy pie. Or is it possible that someone killed the Vicar to get their hands on the rare books that he claims to have bought over the years?

This book also relies less on Ludlow's academic connections and esoteric knowledge than previous novels. It's true that he does spot the clue that reveals the hiding place of the Vicar's bookish treasures and discovers the culprit before the good Inspector, but he isn't nearly as central to the investigation as before. You'd think that since I have such a fondness for academic connections in my mysteries I would be disappointed, but this isn't the case. It was interesting to see the focus shift to Montero and Springer and to have a better look at their working relationship. If Nash/Chapman had continued his mysterious writing career, he could well have plunged into a series featuring Montero and Springer (without Ludlow) and been quite successful. It was good to see a mystery series end on such a strong note--many writers continue putting out work long after their best pieces have been published. Nash/Chapman's final novel is just as strong as his previous work. A lively and entertaining ★★★★ mystery.

This fulfills the "Book/Library" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


1 comment:

fredamans said...

I don't know if this is for me, maybe I should give it a shot any way. Glad you liked it though.