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Friday 17 March 2017

‘Purged’ by Peter Laws

Published by Allison and Busby,
16 February 2017.
ISBN 978-0-7490-2078-1

Professor Matt Hunter is on sabbatical, supposedly writing a book. A few years earlier, before he lost his faith, Matt had been an ordained minister and worked for an evangelical church. Now an academic sociologist, Matt occasionally helps the police with situations that have a religious connection. Matt is married to Wren and has a sixteen-year-old stepdaughter, Lucy, with whom he has a challenging relationship, and a seven-year-old daughter, Amelia.

Wren is an architect, and when she is invited to tender for the contract to extend and modernize a church in a village near Oxford the family is particularly delighted - the invitation comes with the wonderful offer of a free holiday in a local cottage. So, on a hot summers day the family pile into their car and head for Oxfordshire. The village is idyllic, but slightly unusual for the multiplicity of wooden crosses that adorn many of its houses and shops. And despite the facts that there are no curtains at any of its windows, and it is surrounded by woodland, the family thinks the cottage is just perfect.

Seth Cardle, Wren’s contact for the work she might do, and Ben, whom seems a pleasant lad, welcome the family at the cottage.  It transpires that Ben is the son of the local pastor, Chris Kelly, an overly enthusiastic Christian whom Matt had trained with and befriended when they’d been at theological college together. The invitation to Wren and her family had not been as straightforward as they had imagined! Chris believes that Matt is heading for hell and has deliberately tracked Wren and Matt down in an effort to reconcile Matt to God.

No sooner had the family arrived in the village than a fourteen–year-old girl goes missing.  Was this the one whose drowning/ baptism was described over eight pages in the first chapter of the book and whose picture is mysteriously e-mailed to Matt?  Another picture and another “holy” drowning occurs against a background of much joyful praising of Jesus led by the ever ardent Chris Kelly.  The tension rises as Matt, who has already sought help from a buddy, DS Larry Forbes, comes under suspicion from the local bobby, and Lucy runs into danger.

People who like “holy” combined with the macabre will love this book.  There are relatively few characters so the plot is easy to follow. But beware; there is a wicked twist at the end.  All is definitely not what it seems in Purged.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

Peter Laws is an ordained Baptist minister with a taste for the macabre. He writes a monthly column in The Fortean Times and also hosts the popular podcast and YouTube show The Flicks That Church Forgot which reviews thriller and horror films from a theological perspective. He regularly speaks and preaches at churches and events. He lives with his family in Bedfordshire.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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