Poisoned in the Pulpit: A Father Jarvis Hedlam Mystery
Trafford Publishing, 2003 - 185
The annual diocesan convention, as any Episcopalian will tell you, is rich in drama, no matter whether your vantage point is the sanctuary, with its air of pop and ceremony, complete with the traditional clerical garb brought down through the centuries and across continents, stirring hymns and the elegant language of the Book of Common Prayer; or the meeting rooms where closeted committees argue and persuade and sometimes rage as they hammer out compromises that would put Washington D.C. to shame; or the parish hall where unheralded laity move mountains both theoretical and physical to accommodate individuals of all sizes and philosophical orientation who will gather and disperse and gather again, caught in the annual tide of ecclesiastical policy making that will almost certainly change their lives to some degree.
It is against this background that the second Fr. Jarvis Hedlam mystery, Poisoned in the Pulpit, takes place.
In the opening minutes of the convention's opening ceremony, the bishop ascends to the pulpit, and during his opening prayer, suddenly stops, then lurches over the podium.
While the bishop hovers between life and death, Hedlam, a parish priest in the diocese, is left to deal with a morass of unanswered questions ranging from the unauthorized blessing of same-sex unions by one of the priests in the diocese to some uncomfortable questions regarding finance and accounting practices in connection with a retirement home that the diocese is about to open, to the problem of a prickly priest whose days in the diocese seem to be numbered, but who needs the safety net of insurance and a retirement income.
As Hedlam begins to look for answers, he uncovers old wounds, grudges, and unsettling questions about his own positions on tough issues.
Told variously by Hedlam, the bishop, and the bishop's secretary, Poisoned in the Pulpit mixes murder with ecclesiastical politics and more, and like the previous Fr. Jarvis Hedlam mystery, plumps the package with some very human involvment in romantic relationships and looks at the mysterious ways God's grace can work in our lives.