Reverend Dean

(creator: Hal White)


Hal White
Reverend Thaddeus Dean is 80 years old and "a short pudgy man - almost, but not quite bald". He has just retired as pastor of the small Outpost Community Church in Dark Pine at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, some two hours drive from Seattle. He is lonely, poor and desperately misses his wife, the beloved Emma, who had died three years before. He is a "night owl", never going to bed before 2 am, or, if he can help it, getting up before 10am. But he has "a remarkable mind", is very observant, and has a talent for solving "impossible" crimes.

Other characters keep addressing him just as "Reverend" and even the author describes him as "the reverend" without even a capital R, but perhaps that's how it is in these remote parts. At other times the author just refers to him as "the retiree" and that sounds equally clumsy. He has a car that was "even older than Puppadowg, his elderly St Bernard". We are told in one story that "he suffered from Restless Leg Syndrome" and what this is is explained in a page of rather odd endnotes. As this minor disability plays no part in the plot, we are left wondering whether this might have some personal meaning for the author.

Hal White has spent most of his adult life in Washington state. He was admitted to practice law in Washington in 1984, and edited the Washington State Bar News, the official publication of the Washington State Bar Association, from 1995 to 1997. His interest in legal editing led to an interest in writing in general, which ultimately led to his first published book, The Mysteries of Reverend Dean. He says he’s "married to a wonderful woman who’s also his best friend".

The Mysteries of Reverend Dean (2008)
The Mysteries of Reverend Dean is a collection of six short stories, all of which are, unusually, divided into chapters. The most interesting of them is about a pastor who dies in front of his congregation after first a supposed angel, then someone looking like Jesus, appear in church and predict his death. Has someone been poisoning the communion wine?

In another tale, three siblings are murdered—one on a sandy beach, one surrounded by wet paint and one in the middle of a mudflat—with no footprints near any of the bodies. In a third story, a woman is stabbed in her triple-locked, upper floor apartment; although she is protected by a guard dog, and three witnesses insist that no one entered or left her unit.

All six are locked room mysteries with ingenious solutions, with the emphasis on detailed, and sometimes rather tedious, explanations of how the crimes were carried out, and, after a time, these basic similarities grow rather monotonous. In one story, Dean is not even present, but hears everything second-hand, and in the other stories too there is more theorising than exciting action. It seems a pity that there have to be so many murders, as this makes it all seem quite unreal. The character of Reverend Dean would have been much more interesting if he had had to face up to more real life situations.

However, the author writes with humor, as when he describes Dean as waking "at the crack of ten" or explains how "Puppadowg was just about to take Reverend Dean for a walk", so the stories, despite the rather silly plots, can be quite fun to read, particularly if you like solving mysteries. Get rid of the more unlikely murders, and Reverend Dean might yet develop into someone really interesting.


The author has his own attractively designed website. There is little else about him on the web.




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The Mysteries of Reverend Dean cover
The cover gives little idea of the actual content.
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