Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Must-read detective fiction for theologians

A guest-post by JoBloggs

“That’s your job, searching for truth. You never get the whole truth, of course. How could you? You’re a very clever man, but what you do doesn’t result in justice. There’s the justice of men and the justice of God.” —Father Martin to Adam Dalgliesh, Death in Holy Orders (2001)

Detective fiction is about the corruptions of the human heart, the painstaking search for truth, and the complicated relationship between justice and the law. Almost inevitably, therefore, even the most formulaic detective story has something to say to the theologian. These ten books – some novels, some collections of short fiction – not only confront more or less explicitly theological questions, but are also well, even beautifully written. Some are classics in the mystery tradition, others take the genre and run a very long way with it.

So next time you’re getting bogged down in Barth, grab one of these off the shelf, mix yourself a gin and tonic, and settle in for an enjoyable afternoon’s reading:

  • The Innocence of Father Brown, G. K. Chesterton (1911)
  • The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler (1939)
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie (1934)
  • Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers (1935)
  • The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco (1984)
  • The Dumas Club, Arturo Perez-Reverte (1993)
  • Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, Peter Hoeg (1993)
  • Death in Holy Orders, P. D. James (2001)
  • Black and Blue, Ian Rankin (1997)
  • Morality for Beautiful Girls, Alexander McCall Smith (2002)

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