Another charming mystery with Chief of Police Hayden and the St. Barnabas congregation. Everything is tongue-in-cheek as Schweitzer gently savages religious rigidity. The shtick in the series is that Hayden is also a frustrated writer, much maligned by Meg, his girlfriend. He’s writing a series of potboilers using Raymond Chandler’s typewriter and while wearing Chandler's hat. The writing of these stories within the novel are singularly bad, and he reads them to the choir before practice.
For example: “It’s on now,” she said, with a sly smile. “Anything come to mind?” She sat reclining on the sofa, her heaving bosom rising and falling like twin boiling Christmas puddings on Boxing Day, and even as her mouth whimpered no, no, no, the rest of her body ached yes, yes, yes, except for her appendix which had been removed the year before and so didn’t care very much either way.”
Hayden’s take on Worship Committee meetings: Worship Committee meetings at church are to be avoided if at all possible. This is Rule No. 1 in the Hayden Konig Church Musician’s Handbook. Rule No. 2 is never, ever agree to do anything that Meg asks in her sultry, Lauren Bacall voice while whispering in my ear. Closely following is Rule No. 3: If anyone complains about how loud the organ is, the best possible response is to pull out all the stops. There are a myriad of other rules. For example: Never sing any anthem in which the composer or poet tries to rhyme any word with Jesus. This includes squeeze us, frees us, please us, etcetera. There are exceptions, of course, and one of them was a brilliant Christmas madrigal, penned by myself, in which I managed to rhyme Holy Jesus with Mouldy Cheeses.
The St. Barnabas priests are usually borderline lunatics and often killers. The latest temporary church leader wants to institute "The Singing Christmas Tree", (it should pay for itself in ten years or so) but that’s already being done by a church down the road, so Hayden humorously suggests "The Living Gobbler" for Thanksgiving. ( “How hard can it be? A couple of songs…the choir dressed up like tap-dancing broccoli.” “O, Lord,” said Georgia. “Tap-dancing broccoli?” “Sure,” I said. “Throw in some Thanksgiving tunes…” “How about Just As I Yam?” said Pete. “That’s a good one,” I said. “I was thinking of Up From The Gravy.”) The priest loves the idea.
Esoteric musical references are sprinkled throughout. He also has a pet owl, Archimedes, who occasionally flits in through the electric window to retrieve a dead mouse Hayden sets out for him.
Pete, the mayor, is in a tough reelection campaign. He’s accused by Cynthia, his opponent, of letting in people of suspect moral character, namely, DANGL, “The Daystar Naturists of God and Love. … I don’t think they’ll come into town naked. That’s why they have a camp. They’re not militant nudists. They’re Christian nudists.”
These are fun books. Often LOL funny, although I downgraded this one a little because it seemed to drag a bit toward the end and we really didn’t care who committed the crime. I’ve read about six novels in the series and we read all the rest for sure.