Murder before Matins
David Mattison is a librarian with the B.C. Provincial Archives and
Records Services Library.
CBC writer and producer John Reeves doubles as a mystery writer. His latest novel again features the sleuthing skills of Inspector Andrew Coggin and Sergeant Fred Sump of the Metro Toronto Police. They are ably but more imaginatively assisted by one Constable Doist, whose forte is extravagant (and occasionally correct) hypotheses concerning murder. Doist is nothing if not pure comic relief. Introduced in this novel is Constable Nancy Pringle, who, as Reeves notes, “was also, by coincidence, perfectly matched to the context she would have to fit into.” Having a university degree in Middle English literature and master’s thesis on medieval monasticism did not enable her to solve the crime, but it did help advance the narrative by allowing a character to expound on minute monastic details.
As a reader might gather from the title, the scene of the crime is an abbey, Tathwell, outside Toronto. Although there seems on the surface little reason to suppose that monks and nuns are less susceptible to crimes of passion (hate, lust, jealousy, and so on), Reeves reminds us along the way that they are as human as the rest of us. The abbey, while not exactly a hotbed of intrigue and quarrel, has its shame of factional disputes. In true mystery fashion, the reader is led away or astray from the guilty party. The outcome, however, still seemed predictable. There is no sex (one romance between a monk and a nun does surface) and almost no violence, just lots of obscure cloistral minutiae. Novelties are a couple of plans of the abbey and a set of house rules. Recommended for the mystery collection that does not yet have a murder set in an abbey.