|The Rev Michael Richey
(creator: Dale Osborn Rains)
|The Rev Michael (Basil) Richey (Father Mike) is the 38-year-old rector of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church and chaplain to the Madison Police Department. He is physically strong with a "190-pound, six-two frame" who keeps himself fit with regular sessions at the gym. The dark-skinned son of Anglo/Mexican parents, he has been married for 16 years to his loving wife Annie (whom he had met when they were students together at the University of the South and who had thought him "the gentlest, most empathic man she had ever known. And intelligent"), and they still rejoice in their explicitly described love-making and in their son, Tim, who is nine at the start of the story.
Mike now has a fulfilling ministry to the homeless men and women of Madison, South Carolina whom the author describes as hobes, a word that's not in my dictionary, and is apparently not quite the same as hobos, meaning wandering vagrants. I can only guess that hobes don't wander!
Dale Osborn Rains was born in Marthaville, Louisiana, where, he says, he was usually considered the kid who would never get into much trouble and who would go to seminary and then pastor southern fundamentalist churches. But instead he majored in theater and became an Episcopalian. Now a retired professor, he spent over forty years teaching, acting, playwriting, and directing theater. It was only after he retired that he had time to write his first book, the murder mystery reviewed below. He is also an Episcopal lay minister and is married.
My Father's Sins (2009)
The author is particularly good at describing the lives and behavior of the hobes (the homeless) who have names like Juice, Smiley, Gin-Gin, and, most enigmatic of all, Sir, who wouldn't tell the helpers his name when he took his supper tray so was just addressed as sir - and then the name stuck.
The author shows real empathy for such characters, as when he greets old Jo who is sitting on the curb outside the rectory and clearly has something important to tell him but won't say what: "Jo dried her eyes on her sleeve and looked back at Father Mike as though a brilliant idea was about to emerge. 'Tell you what.'
Later on, Mark's wife Annie sees their young son Tim talking to a strange woman on the sideway and rushes out to save him: "Tim looked up, rolled his practiced eyes, and made two syllables out of the word as pre-teens are so capable of doing, 'Mo-om!'
The three characters really come to life, as does the husband-wife relationship between Mike and Annie, including a three-day quarrel about Mike's reluctance to tell Annie about a note left by the murderer, quoting a Biblical text about the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children.
Even the police in the story have their own problems: Chief Detective Jerry Majors had had a father who viciously beat him, a son, Mack, who tried to commit suicide, and a sanctimonious pastor, Brother Sam, who glibly assures him that "Mack may have fallen into the clutches of Satan" and would go straight to hell and that "Reverend Mike is a pagan. Evil, I tell you, evil .... It wouldn't surprise me if he were the devil personified." And when Jerry's wife stands up for him and faces up to Brother Sam, Brother Sam warns Jerry, "And that's what comes of letting a woman take charge. How can you let your wife, a woman, whom the Apostle Paul tells us should remain silent, say those words to a man of God?"
And Detective Carlos Ruiz has big problems with his two student daughters when he bursts in and removes them from a party. It helps make a realistic and quite gripping story.
However, the plot is not always entirely convincing, as when one of the dead bodies turns out to be Mike's father who had walked out on his family 28 years before and not been seen since: "He's my father! He's my fucking father!' yells Mike, his priestly ways forgotten. Nor is the murderer's insistence on visiting the sins of the father on the children and children's children, that leads him to kidnap young Tim, preparatory to murdering him, but not, he insists, until he has killed Mike first. This gives the author a chance to prolong the agony which he does with considerable applomb, helping us identify with the captured Tim.
The kidnapping scene is certainly exciting and it is written in a very down-to-earth way (Tim involuntarly wets himself then seems threatened with sexual assault) but it lacks the feeling of reality of some of the more domestic scenes. However, Tim, like his father, is nothing if not courageous and resourceful and, despite all the odds, plays his part in the melodramatic climax. So all in all, it makes an interesting read.
|The simple cover gives a strong clue as to the content. The book is self-published and available in hardback and as an e-book for Kindle or iBooks.|