|Father Vincent Ross is a Roman Catholic parish priest in his forties who is based at St John's Church in Kinross on Loch Leven. He had once been a "sharp-suited criminal defence lawyer" but has been a priest now for some 16 years. He is happy to be in a small town where "he felt he was someone". He is bespectacled, and "on the stocky side" and is described by a journalist as "small and scruffy, but not unattractive with piercing blue eyes and a mop of sandy-coloured hair", even if he does have a crooked nose. Despite rumours to the contrary, he had been celibate since his ordination although "it had not been easy". He had been a connoisseur of fine wine in the days he could afford it but "nowadays he had to make do". He has a cat called Satan.
Gillian Gilbraith (1957 - ) attended a convent school in Bridge of Earn before taking an Arts degree at Edinburgh University. She explains that she then became, with no previous experience, the writer of horoscopes for the Dundee Courier, and later an agony aunt, an agony uncle and a "doctor" for a teenage magazine.
She became a trainee solicitor in 1986 and was called to the Scottish bar the next year. She practised at the Bar, specialising in medical negligence cases, until 1999 when she had her first, and only child, Daisy. After that, she gradually changed from being a full-time advocate to being a full-time writer and has, since 2007, produced a series of crime novels featuring Detective Sergeant Alice Rice before introducing Father Vincent Ross in The Good Priest (reviewed below). She lives on the Ochils in Kinross-shire with her husband and daughter.
The Good Priest (2014)
The Good Priest gets off to an interesting start and it is not long before a Roman Catholic bishop is lying in a pool of blood. Out in the bishop's diocese, the quiet life of parish priest Father Vincent Ross is about to be thrown into turmoil. There are ugly scandals about paedophile priests being hidden by the church, a book listing their misdeeds has gone missing, and a murderer seems to be targetting them. The police and the authorities are groping in the dark, but Father Ross has heard the murderer's confession in the confessional although he cannot disclose this to anyone. He realises that he alone can unmask the murderer even if he has to risk his own safety in the process.
The author's strength lies in her ability to create real characters ranging from the priest himself, who is conscientious and likeable even if something of an innocent abroad, to the eccentric parishioner who insists on speaking in phoney glossolalia: "She had no charism, no special gift from God. She was in complete control of all her facilities,which was more than could now be said of him. How dare she gabble away in tongues, like a thing possessed, and on diocesan premises to boot!" He could make out "one or two French words in amongst her babbling". Finally, catching the words "Veni, Vidi. Vici", he couldn't help "laughing out loud at her audacity - especially when it was followed by "something that sounded to his ears suspiciously like 'Vorsprung durch Technik'."
Then there was the weak and dying old lady who loved to gossip with him, "but the second he murmured the words 'Hail Mary full of grace', her eyes blinked open and she sat up, glaring at him indignantly. 'I'm not that far gone! So you can get right up off your knees.You're vultures, the lot of you ....'
'Doves, maybe, Jean, but not vultures.'
'Well, you wait and see. I'll be leaping out of bed yet, like a phoenix and surprise the lot of you!"
Father Ross knew all too well that for some female parishioners, "a man sworn to celibacy, whatever he looked like, might be challenge enough." As a fellow-student had told him, "In a dog-collar, the elephant man would have been in demand". But it still comes as a surprise when a married parishioner offers herself to him, and he finds himself very nearly kissing her. After this, it is not long before an irresponsible journalist is describing him as "a Casonova in a cassock" who had "romped with countless of his female parishioners over the years". Luckily, when he is temporarily suspended from his post, there is a small communuity of ever-loyal local nuns happy to take him in.
When he accidentally sets off their smoke alarm, he can't help exclaiming, "Fuck!". However, one of the nuns tactfully blames it on their parrot: "Was that Bertie's foul-mouthed cry I heard?" she asked, cocking her head to one side as if it catch anything else the parrot might say." It is not every convent that has a foul-mouthed parrot but this one certainly keeps the reader, as well as the nuns, amused.
It may not be an altogether gripping story but it's told with a gentle humour that helps it along and the portrayal of the puzzled priest is a sympathetic and agreeable one.
The author has her own website.
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