Rev Joy Norton

(creator: Dave Freer)

Dave Freer
Rev Joy Norton Is a rather timid and inexperienced young priest and just 5'3" tall (she is described as "a tiny wee thing and could barely lift a bag") and knew that "she was nothing much to look at. A small, slightly plump woman, with a simple bob haircut, a touch of grey starting on the temples, with a clerical collar about her plain blue blouse." So she was dismayed to be sent by her bishop to a remote Australian country parish with no other clergy to turn to for help. Since graduating from seminary, she had just played a junior role in two large city parishes. Now she is out on her own: "It was very intimidating. She'd never been good at talking to people." But she can truly say, "I do my best, without too much bible-thumping." Pevious to ordination she had been a museum illustrator. Her denomination is never mentioned but I presume she is an Anglican. If so, she should not really be addressed in conversation as "Reverend" - but perhaps they do not know this in remote outback parishes like this one.

Dave Freer grew up in in South Africa. After boarding school, he was conscripted at the age of 17 into the South African Defence Force and sent to the Angolan border as a medic. Afterwards he married, went to university and became an ichthyologist, then worked as research officer for the Western Cape commercial shark fishery. After trying to manage a fish farm, he turned to writing. It took 6 years and 74 rejections before his first book was published. He has subsequently published numerous science-fiction and other novels and short stories.

In 2010, he and his wife emigrated to Flinders Island, in the Australian state of Tasmania, which he describes as "a remote island in the middle of the Bass strait, only reachable by plane or an 11 hour ferry trip where you would have to disguise yourself as a cow, as they do not take human passengers." He has two grown-up sons. He has donated all the rights to Joy Cometh in the Morning (reviewed below) for the next 10 years to his family church in the isolated Furneaux Islands where they could not afford their own minister.

Joy Cometh in the Mourning (2014)
Joy Cometh in the Mourning describes how Rev Joy Norton is reluctant to be sent out to Felixtown, a remote back-country parish, as she doubts both her ability and her suitability. These doubts grow when she hears of the mysterious death of her predecessor who had been found "sprawled in the aisle", quite dead. But from the first encounter with her congregation -- having her little car rescued from a muddy ditch, she finds herself deeply involved with her parishioners and touched by their qualities and eccentricities.

At first it is not obvious in what country all this is happening, but references to ute (utility vehicle), dollars, and chooks (chicken) eventually identify it as Australia. She soon gets used to keep bumping into various members of her congregation and picking up the local gossip: "Everyone is related to everyone, in this place" and few things stay secret for long, So she soon discovers there is something very odd about the church accounts as "the income matched the outgoing to the last cent." It all sounded too good to be true - and the Dean tells her that she must get to the bottom of it.

It seems to take quite a time for her to work out what happened and to solve the mystery of her predecessor's death, as we are treated to some long rather boring conversations, and there are detailed descriptions of food eaten, all in the best cozy style. However, the story is told with humour and Joy herself justifies her bishop's confidence in her and grows more self reliant: "Now she just had to decide what to do next, and find the courage and strength to do it. She knew that she was rather too timid to find it easy, but she was still upset by the hurt that had been done; It needed meditation and prayer." But it sounds too glib when she says "In the end, death is such a small thing to a Christian."

Joy is not really much of a detective and the story lacks any sense of suspense or of drama. It may appeal to fans of cozy type mysteries as there's nothing in it to really disturb or excite the reader. It seems an odd product to come from an author known for his science fiction and fantasy stories.

The author has his own website, but as it is more jokey than informative, you might also like to look at the article about him in Wikipedia.

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Joy Cometh with the Mourning covere
The cover looks suitably cozy.