by GREGORY LOMAX
Solemn High Murder, by Barbara Byfield and Frank Tedeschi, (Peter Davies £3.50), Remains to be Seen by Michael Butterworth, (Collins Crime Club £2.95).
Solemn High Murder is the mystery of who killed the thoroughly unpleasant vicar of St Jude's New York. Fr Dunstan Owsley is being courted by the Archbishop of Canterbury's secretary who wishes to offer him an important post in the Anglican Communion, when he is found dead in the Lady Chapel.
It is a measure of Fr Owsley's (it is High Church) repulsive nature that potential murderers abound. His curates have good reason for rubbing him out: so have most of the congregation.
The plot, which is limited and peopled by cardboard cut-out figures, meanders on. The police (presumably largely Irish and Catholic) fail to capture the murderer and the Archbishop's secretary finally discovers who did it. In his position I should have tendered my congratulations and thanks. but unfortunately the Archbishop's secretary turns the killer in.
There is a charismatic group in the parish which makes sporadic appearances and provides a subplot. There is some gratuitous sex. There is no excitement or mystery.
Michael Butterworth has sgritten an amusing novel of spid and murder which hinges on the quest by the Soviet Government to recover an icon stolen from the nation at the time of the Revolution. It has ended up in Scunthorpe, and served to supplement the income of the thief who has in the intervening years acquired a bad temper, a Lincolnshire accent and an undertaker's business.
There are some amusing scenes, notably those involving the American and Soviet Secret Services. but the author appears to have tired of his characters towards the hook's climax. which is a pity because with u further revision it would have been a very good book indeed. As it is this is a light-hearted thriller which many will enjoy.