When I first saw the title Death of a Liturgist I must say I was intrigued. Judging by the title I though I always like a book with a happy ending. Well actually I was intrigued, but was really wondering if the novel was worth reading or whether it was a vehicle for liturgical polemics. Lorraine V. Murray is an author I have heard good things about with her “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist” and “The Abbess of Andalusia – Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey”. Death of a Liturgist is her second mystery novel with “Death in the Choir” being her first.
Actually reading the novel I was quickly engrossed in the story and finished it up in two protracted readings. The story follows Francesca Bibbo a woman who had lost her husband two years previously and her parish St. Rita. St. Rita is kind of an idealized traditional parish with a solid choir singing Gregorian Chant and seemingly untouched by the Spirit of Vatican II. The parish priest though is being assigned to another parish and another priest is brought in. This priest hesitant about his responsibilities in a much larger parish and afraid of being overwhelmed after advertising for help ends up hiring an affable man named Chip trained as a liturgist. It’s easy to imagine the changes Chip brings about in this parish considering how many times this has happened before. Folk hymns, Stations of the Earth, and tampering with every aspect of the liturgy and religious education. While Chip meets lots of opposition he is very good at getting his way, but with a lot of feathers ruffled in this parish. The title of the book pretty much gives away that something happens to this liturgist and the subsequent murder investigation. Francesca Bibbo and her boyfriend a Police Detective get quite caught up in the ensuing mystery. Apparently Francesca Bibbo was also a character in her novel “Death in the Choir” which has quite excellent reviews.
As a mystery the book was fairly satisfying with the normal false clues and misdirections, though I was able to figure out what happened to Chip the liturgist. I think the book did need another suspect for us to be misdirected by since the number of suspects that we got to know was rather slim. The theme of the liturgy and proper celebration is of course red meat for people like myself and those who follow Father Z and other liturgically minded blogs. I did like the presentation of the new pastor and the difficulties of dealing with so many issues and pressures from groups wanting opposite things. While the changes the liturgist make and the conflicts with a more traditionally minded nun and people of the parish shows some real-world conflicts, the liturgist is not presented just as a one-dimensional character, and that can be said about most of the characters of the book. I also like some of the themes about dealing with liturgical conflict, staying with a parish, and the importance of the Eucharist winning out over other concerns.
I do know that I will be looking up her other books now since I did enjoy this one.
This book was put out by Saint Benedict Press and I must say I was impressed by the cover art which really stood out. I was also impressed with the eBook version of the book I received and the attention to detail in it concerning the use of color. So often eBooks are just created by publishers with no real concern as to what can be done in that format. It was nice to see that recently Tan Books started offering books by Saint Benedict Press as reasonably priced eBooks.