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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
‘An Unholy Communion’ by Donna Fletcher Crow
'The black figure plunged over the edge of the tower and hurtled towards the earth. Then as the skirt of his cassock flared like a parachute, the scene changed to an even more horrifying slow motion. Falling, falling, falling.' Felicity Howard awakes from a nightmare and realises, to her horror, she has overslept on Ascension morning and will be too late to join her fellow ordinands at the College of the Transfiguration to sing hymns of praise and rejoicing on the top of the tower.
It is the first time that Felicity, an American, has had the opportunity to attend the Ascension Day celebration and, standing at the foot of the tower, she is determined to enjoy the experience despite her disappointment at not being with the singers at the top. Then a clerical figure plummets to the ground in an extraordinary and terrifying replica of Felicity's dream. Felicity is the first to reach the dead man. He is clutching a scrap of paper bearing a strange symbol but, as Felicity holds the paper, it bursts into flame and turns to ashes before her eyes.
Felicity's fiancé, Father Anthony Sherwood, identifies the dead man as Hwyl Pendry, once a student of his own, who was a deliverance minister, dealing with paranormal, evil events in Wales. However, Anthony has not seen Hywl for several years.
All that Felicity wants to do is have a quiet holiday and prepare for her wedding but Anthony has agreed to stand in as the leader of a youth pilgrimage through rural Wales and asks Felicity to accompany him. The pilgrimage culminates at St David's, where Hwyl Pendry had been a minister.
Anthony and Felicity set off with their mixed band of young pilgrims, with Anthony conducting religious services and telling them the story of saints and martyrs connected with Wales as they reach various spiritual landmarks. The scenery is beautiful and the young people settle down well together despite wide differences in their backgrounds and interests, but the pilgrimage is dogged by strange accidents and freak weather conditions, like the sudden storm that blows up when Anthony is holding a mass at a holy shrine: 'The darkness seemed so thick Felicity wasn't sure she could grope her way to the altar only a few feet in front of her. The wind lashed as if it would fling her from the hillside.'
Anthony is certain that some deep evil is attempting to prevent them completing their pilgrimage. Thirteen-year-old Adam, the youngest of the pilgrims, has already been in danger more than once during the pilgrimage but now he vanishes and Anthony and Felicity fear he has been adducted for some sinister, spiritually corrupt reason. Past religious history and contemporary greed and ambition combine to endanger Felicity and Anthony, their charges and holy artefacts. Together they must prevail to save young Adam, protect the other young pilgrims and each other from harm and solve the dark secret behind Hywl's death.
An Unholy Communion is the third in the Monastery Murders series and carries the story of Felicity and Anthony forward. The book is a compelling read. It is a remarkable mixture of exquisite description of scenery, church history and ritual brought to life, a warm and loving central relationship and a dark and evil conspiracy. The book stands alone, although I would have liked a little more of the back story that shaped Felicity and Anthony's relationship. Indeed I was eager to read the first two books. Perhaps the warmest recommendation I can give An Unholy Communion is the fact that I immediately ordered the first two Monastery Murders and have found all three books excellent.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 12 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/
You can follow her on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher. She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times, and her Scene of Crimes novel The Terminal Velocity of Cats will be published in July 2013.