Friday, July 4, 2008

The Becket Factor - Michael David Anthony

Richard Harrison is a retired intelligence officer who now takes care of the maintenance at Canterbury. As the cathedral is preparing to announce a new Archbishop, murder and mayhem break out, and Harrison finds himself smack dab in the middle of it.

Harrison returns to Canterbury from a short trip to find one of the Canons dead. While the death was being attributed to heart attack, it was fishy nonetheless; even more so when Harrison's old colleague Brigadier Greville shows up and recruits Harrison to do some investigating.

Meanwhile, a suspicious casket is unearthed in the maintenance that is being done to prepare for the new Archbishop. No work can be done until the casket is taken care of...and taking care of this casket isn't that easy because it could possibly be the lost of remains of the twelfth-century martyr Thomas Becket.

This book was part of the June reading choices for the book group I read with. I have discovered some phenomenal mysteries reading with this group; sadly, this was not one of them. I had a very difficult time making it through this book, it took me a lot longer than normal. I fell asleep several times while reading. However, I do want to stipulate that I know very little about the Anglican Church - the Catholic Church I know a great deal about; the Anglican Church - not so much. That may have played a big role in my view of this book. For example, I had a hard time keeping characters straight because they were often referred to by their titles: Canon, Archbishop, Archdeacon...I was constantly having to go back to figure out who was who, and I don't know what the titles indicate exactly. By the end of the book, it was obvious that the Archbishop was the highest ranking of them, but beyond that, I know nothing.

I didn't make connections with any of the characters either. Harrison seemed wishy-washy and quite frankly, for an intelligence officer, I was irritated that he prematurely jumped to so many conclusions. Even his wife could see he was making assumptions without all the facts. If he was a trained professional, why couldn't he see that as well? It wasn't hard to see it coming when his conclusions all ended up wrong. However, the way he "discovered" his assumptions were wrong was rather suspect as well. Again, this "discovery" was really just more assumptions.

The inclusion of Sarah, the dead Canon's niece was very strange. I think she could have been eliminated from the book quite easily without affecting the plot at all. And I felt the same way about Greville's partner Gillie. I didn't understand the significance of his character either. Both just seemed to add unnecessary fluff to the plot.

This book is the first in a series, but I won't be pursuing any of the others.


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