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Evil Intent by Kate Charles

Evil Intent (2005)

by Kate Charles

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Callie Anson is a newly ordained Anglican Priest and has just received her first posting as Curate of All Saints’ Church in Paddington, London. Recovering from the breakup of a relationship and coming to terms with her demanding new job (which includes more than its fair share of abuse as some people do not take well to the idea of female priests) are enough to deal with but she is soon embroiled in a murder investigation too. A hardline conservative priest is strangled and one of Callie’s closest friends is the prime, indeed only, suspect.

As my memory resembles a sieve I have no clue what prompted me to mooch this book nearly three years ago but I am immensely pleased that I did. Even without the mystery element (which was perfectly entertaining in its own right) this book has a lot to offer. You might not think you’d be absorbed by a depiction of the modern Anglican church and its internal political issues (including the ordination of women and the acceptance of openly homosexual clergy) but Charles has made them utterly compelling reading. She manages to be respectful of an institution she clearly loves but does not fawn or fail to criticize elements of doctrine or collective behaviour that she finds outdated and/or offensive. Most importantly though she does all this as part of an intriguing story, not as some political diatribe on the various issues raised. I wish that all the authors I read who have something political to say were equally well-versed in the art of showing (not telling).

Another aspect of the novel I found fascinating was its depiction of the media and the relationship between the police and the media. There is a journalist character here who drives much of the plot development and she, or at least her actions, are at times horrific, being entirely devoid of journalistic ethics, fact checking and the like. At one point in particular she shreds someone’s career based solely on one person’s claims without, it appears, any attempt (or even need) to check the claims made or interview the person who was the subject of them. I don’t know enough about either English law or media to know if this is realistic but if it is then it is a very sad indictment on the English fourth estate. I know our media here in Australia isn’t perfect but they wouldn’t quite get away with that.

The mystery plot is almost a minor component then of what made this book interesting for me but that’s not to say it wasn’t interesting too. While police could only see one possible suspect readers were provided motivations for several more potential culprits in what was something of an old-fashioned whodunnit. Even (especially?) among the various clergy and their families there were plenty of secrets which might have warranted killing someone in order to keep. Charles teases these out adroitly and keeps readers guessing until the end.

In some ways this book is quite scathing of the institution that is the Anglican church but it is also reverential at times. Various characters describe what drew them to the church or what aspects keep them coming back, even when they don’t agree with everything going on from a political standpoint, and I liked the balance this provided. It made the book much more compelling than a one-sided polemic would have been. I really had no idea what to expect when I plucked this book from the depths of my TBR pile and was pleasantly surprised to find a thought-provoking and engaging book which I gobbled up in a single, late night sitting. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
From the blurb:
Life in the clergy is quiet, respectful, peaceful or so Callie Anson believes when she begins her new job as curate to the Reverend Brian Stanford at All Saints Church in Paddington. Little does she realise how wrong she could be.
After the traumatic end of her relationship with fiancé Adam, the last thing Callie needs is any more emotional turmoil. But it seems she is not destined for a quiet life just yet. Knowing that women in the clergy are still disapproved of in certain quarters, Callie is prepared to face some criticism. But the deep-seated hatred shown by some of her respected male colleagues takes her by surprise, particularly the spiteful attack made by Father Jonah Adimola, a hard-line conservative Nigerian priest. Luckily, however, her good friend and mentor Frances Cherry is on hand to jump to her defence. But when Father Adimola is found strangled to death the next day and Frances is suspected of the crime, Callie must call upon her faith to steer her through the troubling and violent times ahead and help prove her friend's innocence. With DI Neville Stewart heading the investigation, it is not long before the ecclesiastical façade is chipped away to reveal the ugly truth of the hidden secrets of the clergy.

I had not read any Kate Charles novels before and originally wondered whether I was going to like the novel, so far from my usual reading was it. In fact in my report I wrote "Things had better look up soon. I can feel things moving towards the first climax but there is a limit to how much of the day to day routine of church life that I can stand."

Well, I adapted to the setting and began to enjoy it. It's about (apart from the murder mystery)
* the hostility to ordination of women in the Anglican church
* the suppression of homosexuality.

There's a lot in this story about relationships, the need to feel connection with another. As the mystery unfolded I enjoyed the exploration of emotional entanglements. I'd read or listen to another. ( )
  smik | Jun 24, 2008 |
What joy to read a new Kate Charles! She captures the essence of a true ecclesiastical mystery for me - murder entwined with church politics. In this case women as priests and gays priests in the Church of England. Curate Callie Anson is attending her first Clergy Chapter meeting whose members cross the full range of political stances in the Church of England. The high points of the meeting are the throwing of wine in one priest's face by another and the the murder of one of the priest's with the other's stole. This is the first in a new Kate Charles' series. A very good read! ( )
  pmarshall | Feb 12, 2008 |
As a newly ordained curate in the Church of England, Callie Anson is aware that not everyone approves of women in the clergy. On her first assignment assisting the vicar at All Saints’ Church in Paddington, London, she sees that truth first hand when, at a clerical gathering, one of the most misogynistic priests verbally attacks her. When Frances Cherry steps in to defend her friend Callie, things escalate, ending only when Frances empties her glass of wine in Jonah Adimola’s face.

The next morning after she’s cooled down, Frannie is remorseful. Then she’s shocked to learn that Jonah Adimola has been murdered, strangled by Frances’s own stole, which she had left behind. No one who knows Frances well believes she could have murdered anyone. However, when it looks like Frannie is the number one suspect, Callie knows she has to help find out who the murderer really is.

Callie has lots on her mind besides the murder investigation. She has a new job, a troubled relationship with her mother, turf issues with the vicar – plus she’s just getting over a broken relationship with her former fiancée, now engaged to another woman. Thankfully, she’s just beginning a new friendship with a handsome man she met on an airplane – and he turns out to be a police officer with the department investigating the Adimola murder.

Evil Intent is somewhat reminiscent of P.D. James’s novels – although Kate Charles has a much lighter touch. Plus, Callie, is no brooding Adam Dalgleish. Kate Charles seems to know her way around the Anglican Church, bringing to life the issues that seem to be dividing church members in many denominations – women clergy, homosexuality and the priesthood, liberalism v. conservatism in the 21st Century. The author is never heavy-handed, however, or preachy. Evil Intent is a cracking good read with a complicated plot, great character development and a satisfying conclusion.

By Diana. First Published in Mystery News, October-November 2005 ( )
  NewsieQ | Dec 27, 2006 |
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For three wise and wonderful women
Jacquie Birdseye, Joan Crossley, and Christina Rees
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On the afternoon of her first official Sunday as Curate of All Saints', Paddington, murder was the last thing on Callie Anson's mind.
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Callie Anson knows that women in the clergy still are disapproved of in certain quarters, but is not prepared for the spiteful attack made by a Nigerian priest. When the man is found strangled to death, and her good friend and mentor is suspected of the crime, Callie must call up her faith to sustain her while she solves the crime.… (more)

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