Pastor Luke Bowers

(creator: James Lilliefors)


James Lilliefors
Pastor Luke Hardy is a Methodist pastor who lives happily with his wife Charlotte (who is a historian who works at home) and their dog Sneakers in the Chesapeake Bay community of Tideswater County, where he had introduced such new ideas as AA meetings and prison ministry, that had been "things not universally welcomed".

Luke had been adopted at an early age and so had never known his real parents. His adoptive parents "were travellers who nurtured in him a capacity for wonder and a healthy sense of curiosity." Before becoming a seminarian, he had worked as an EMT (emergency medical technician) and as a paramedic. He saw himself "in the good and evil business. His job was to help people find greater meaning in the ordinary march of their days." He enjoyed "the duties of being pastor, meeting people, helping members of the church, and working to expand the congregation" and relied on faith and prayer and divine inspiration to "prevent evil from claiming a victory."

James Lilliefors is a journalist and bestselling novelist who grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. He was educated at the University of Iowa and the University of Virginia, where he was a Henry Hoyns Fiction Writing Fellow. He worked for many years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Maryland and in Florida. He is the author of a number of fiction and non-fiction titles including the geopolitical thriller novels The Leviathon Effect and Viral. The Psalmist (reviewed below) is the first of a series of mystery novels set in the Chesapeake Bay community of Tidewater County. He lives with his wife in South Florida.

The Psalmist (2014)
The Psalmist starts on a cold winter morning in the Chesapeake Bay community of Tidewater County when Pastor Luke Bowers discovers a dead woman seated in a pew at his church. He soon forms a partnership with Maryland State Police homicide investigator Amy Hunter. In fact, she does nearly all the detective work, helped by his insights as when he recognises that the sequence of numbers carved onto the victim's right-hand are references to the Book of Psalms. Then similar carvings are found on other victims. It seems that a serial killer must be at work.

The task of tracking down the deranged killer is made much complicated by the hostility of local Sheriff Calvert who bitterly resents Amy's arrival. He is so unpleasant in fact that you even wish it were he who could turn out to be the murderer! But there are other much more likely suspects including the mysterious Jackson Pynne about whom there is a local saying that something strange happens whenever he comes to town. And there is a sinister hitman employed by somebody known only as The Client.

Meanwhile Pastor Luke can relax by joining his wife in sexual role-plays, when she becomes Dr Nicely, "Luke's expensive six therapist, who made house calls, one of their favourite recurring role-plays." It's an aspect of clerical life that one doesn't usually hear much about.

It is a story that gets off to a slow start but gets much more interesting as the plot develops, so much so that by the end, when you reach the end of one chapter, you immediately want to start the next.


The Tempest (2015)
The Tempest begins with a mysterious, indeed incomprehensible, brief prologue, then goes on to describe how, when tourist Susan Champlain visits Pastor Luke Bowers (who is 41 now), she tells him her husband has recently threatened to make her "disappear" because of a photo Susan took on her phone. Luke is concerned enough to tip off his friend, Tidewater County's chief homicide investigator, Sergeant Amy Hunter. That night, Susan's body is found at the foot of the Widow's Point bluff. Hunter soon discovers Susan left behind clues, including some photos, that may connect her fate to a series of killings in the Northeast, a powerful criminal enterprise, and to a missing Rembrandt masterpiece, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

It makes an interesting story with the characters of Luke and his wife Charlotte, being very well drawn, as when we are told that, "Charlotte had a small jealous bone, which grew more prominent whenever the topic of Amy Hunter (who is "young, independent, energetic, attractive") came up." During the course of the story, they happily agree to embark on a new project: to have a baby. So it is not long before he "was home for lunch to work on their 'project', which was going to be a regular activity for a while; or so he hoped."

Luke makes a convincingly busy pastor too, taking his church duties very seriously, and we are even given details of two of his sermons. He and his wife give Amy Hunter some helpful suggestions (it is Charlotte who recognises a painting in a photo as the missing Rembrandt) but once again it is Amy who does all the real detective work and the emphasis is much more on her than on him. The villains, ranging from the mysterious murderer Belasco to the totally unlikely mastermind Kepler, are much less convincing. There is an exciting sequence towards the end when Amy gets taken prisoner, but there are other times when it all seems a bit overdrawn and it is not always easy to remember who is who. But it still makes an enjoyable read.




The author has his own website.



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The Psalmist cover
The cover looks appropriately sinister.
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