Regardless of how much reading one does, there never seems to a shortage of new authors to discover – writers like Paul Charles, who recently released St Ernan’s Blues, the third book in his series featuring Inspector Starrett. St Ernan’s Blues is reminiscent of Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery in that it is a character-driven traditional mystery set in an isolated religious community.
The novel is mainly set at St Ernan’s, where ten priests are living out the remainder of their lives – it is equal parts retirement home and unofficial prison. The location of the home is a secluded island off the coast of Ireland, but the story itself is more worldly and universal.
Inspector Starrett and his team are called in to investigate the murder of Father Matthew McKaye. With suspects who are all in questionable standing with the Church, many secrets are uncovered on the way to the truth of this unusual death. Some of these discoveries are inevitable, while others add an air of unexpectedness to the proceedings.
Like the lives these priests lead, the novel unspools slowly and gently. It can get confusing keeping all of the different Fathers organized in one’s mind, but Paul Charles wisely includes a map showing the layout of the different sleeping quarters along with some thumbnail details about each priest’s personality for easy reference while reading.
Even though this is listed as an “Inspector Starrett Mystery,” some personally situations and conflicts for Starrett facilitate readers becoming familiar with the other members of his team as they take the lead on various tasks involved in the investigation. Fans of locked room or closed community mysteries will find much to enjoy in St Ernan’s Blues. While there is some backstory explored, new readers of the series can easily follow the threads here and will be inspired to explore other books in this series by Paul Charles.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publicist. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.