|Rev Jonah Newman
(creator: Robert Stephen Reid)
|Rev Jonah (or Pastor) Newman is the new interim pastor at Mason Street (Baptist) Church in Sheridan in Eastern Washington. The drowned body of the previous pastor had been found only a few weeks before. Jonah's wife had been his co-pastor at a community church in Duarte, but had been killed in a robbery the previous year so he lives now with his 12-year-old son Mark. We are not told anything about his age or appearance, but he soon proves himself to be a friendly, approachable and not easily shockable pastor - which is just as well in the circumstances in which he finds himself.
Professor Robert Stephen Reid was awarded his PhD at the University of Washington. He is the author of numerous books on contemporary preaching and public speaking. He is Director of the Graduate Program in Organizational Communication & Leadership, and Department Head at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. He is also an ordained Baptist Minister who has served as senior pastor as well as interim pastor for several congregations. The First Stone, self-published as an eBook, is his first detective novel and is intended as the first of a series.
The First Stone (2012)
The author knows all about the way churches work, and the in-fighting that goes on in committees. As he points out, “It is the job of an interim pastor to help a congregation to heal and to go forward." And this is especially true when, as here, he is faced with “a divided and angry congregation that seems to be spending all its energy either damning or defending Eric (the dead pastor)".
When Jonah realises that he will have to listen to the tapes on which the pastor was thought to have recorded his counselling sessions, he is resolute enough to face up to "at least twenty people" who are afraid that their confessions may have been recorded. This is realistically handled.
There are some places, however, where a professional editor might have helped: there is, for example, a rather unnecessary prologue in which the drowned minister's body is discovered by two boys out fishing, but this lacks any sense of surprise because we know from the start what it is that they're going to discover. And there are at least five spelling mistakes that might have been picked up by a professional proof-reader. (Following this review, both these matters were corrected.)
The ending gets increasingly melodramatic (when a "bloodied madman" ties a rope around his victim saying, “Sorry, babe, I got to do this", and we're told, it was “clear that (the murderer) was serious"). This is not really too convincing.
In the next book, let's hope that the author makes more use of his own pastoral experience, for Jonah Newman is a potentially interesting character, and could, confronted with less melodramatic situations, emerge as a really interesting clerical detective. He certainly makes a determined investigator.
|The book is only available as an eBook - but this makes it quite inexpensive.|