Friday, April 6, 2012

The Religious Body, by Catherine Aird


The Religious Body
by Catherine Aird
1966


I've read five or six books thus far by Catherine Aird and I have yet to find a dud. You won't find them all of these titles reviewed here since I read several before starting this site. Most of Aird's novels have focused on the efforts of Inspector C.D. Sloan and this was the book that kicked off that long-running series.

While it's not a dud, The Religious Body was not without a few relatively minor flaws. More about that in a moment. The setting, as the title sort of suggests, is a convent, and the first of the murder victims is one of the nuns who's cloistered there. While I wouldn't have picked a convent as a likely setting for a whodunit, Aird does a pretty good job with recreating the somewhat oppressive atmosphere of the place, all of which enhances the flavor of the story.

Which is fraught with the requisite array of twists and turns and the mayhem therein may have something to do with at least one of the nun's former lives. There's also an agricultural school next door, home to a gang of rowdy young boys and attendant staff, all of which maybe relevant to the proceedings.

Which added up to a fairly entertaining and compact piece of work, but now let's move on to those flaws. In his review at his site At the Scene of the Crime, Patrick rightly points out that there are a few weak points in the plotting/clueing. One has to do with a bloody thumbprint and the other the motivation for one of the killings. I can't argue with that and I'd add that the motivation for the first killing seems to something of an afterthought, once it's been revealed to the reader.

None of which really dampened my enthusiasm for the book all that much and I'm sure I'll continue to keep working my way through Aird's works as I run across them.

3 comments:

  1. I liked this one when I read it in the 1990s but I can't remember much more about than that! Gladys Mitchell set two good mysteries in nunneries, so it can be done!

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  2. While I *did* like this book, for me the plot holes were just *too* big. I'll give Aird another shot some day -- not quite yet though -- but I have yet to come across a book of hers that makes me gasp in admiration.

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  3. I must say I like Aird, who is still turning them out, I believe. C. D. Sloan and "The Defective Constable" Crosby are an enjoyable pair, and Aird writes with enough humor and dry wit to keep me entertained. If you haven't read "Henrietta Who?" yet, I think you might find it very enjoyable - it's a good twist on the puzzle of a person's true identity.

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