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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 16 May 2013
I have never read a more gripping and unusual murder mystery than this. In an Agatha Christie-style English seaside village, the black vicar, Anton Fontaine, is discovered crucified in his own vestry.
Many are those in the village who had reason for wishing him dead: enter Abbot Peter, my favourite fictional character of all time. Using intuition and the help of his Police Inspector niece, Tamsin, Abbot Peter sets about studying the characters and motives of this loosely-knit group. In puzzling out what has happened, he also, intriguingly, employs the help of the Enneagram, a centuries old, time-honoured mystic system of character analysis.
I often skim over chapters written in italics but in here these are fascinating, and eventually we discover the link between them and the present day, cleverly worked in.
I highly recommend this book: on the one hand it is accessible and a highly enjoyable romp that packs a punch; and, on the other hand, it possesses an extra dimension, a deeper study of human nature and behaviour.
Whether you are religious, atheist or agnostic, young or old, male or female, I feel confident that you will hugely enjoy this book.
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on 15 June 2013
It's not often a book keeps me up late three nights in a row, but A Vicar, Crucified easily kept sleep at bay this week where lesser books have failed. It's a murder mystery with a plot that has more twists than a hangman's noose, written by a former vicar who has the inside story on the many reasons why parishioners might reasonably want to murder their priest.

On the murder most foul scale, this is close to the far end of foul, with flippant priest Anton Fontaine, vicar of St Michael's Stormhaven (a quiet south coast town), nailed to a cross in his own vestry after the mother of all church meetings. The cast of suspects includes Bishop Stephen, who elevates himself by putting others down, Curate Sally, who likes to demonstrate she's in charge, and youth worker Ginger, whose temper is on a hair-trigger.

Helping the police with their enquiries (as witness rather than suspect) is Abbot Peter, recently returned to Britain from running a monastery in the Sinai Desert. And helping him is the enneagram, the psychological profiling tool which gives the Abbot deep insight into the motivations of the suspects.

The dialogue of the novel is especially satisfying for anyone who fantasises about telling others exactly how irritating they are. `I sometimes wonder if you belong here, Peter?' the Bishop tells the Abbot in a savage moment of passive aggression. `Have you ever thought of going somewhere you matter?' Simon Parke, before he did his vicaring, was a scriptwriter for Spitting Image, and his satirical instincts are on fine display in the novel.

Most of all, though, I enjoyed the psychological insights of the book, with Abbot Peter lifting the lid on his fellow human beings as they manipulate others and reveal their own desires. That gave me plenty to think about when I wasn't engrossed in the plot or trying to beat the Abbot in the race to discover the murderer. Which I didn't, of course.
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on 2 October 2013
I do like a good murder mystery, and this gave me much more. I felt like I was reading an author completely confident in the genre, the story, the characters. In particular, the characters of Abbot Peter and the town of Stormhaven were very vivid for me. Words that spring to mind: clever, thoughtful, thought-provoking, engaging, enjoyable. For me you bring a lightness of touch to the difficult things in life - the darkness in all of us (with no judgement), death. I enjoyed moments of laughter, moments of reflection and moments of 'Oh what's going to happen next!'. The 'whodunit' part was perfect. The interweaving of the two stories was beautifully handled I thought, and so clever.
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on 28 May 2013
I have been a fan of Simons writing for many years and i think this his his best yet which given that Shelf Life was a belter is top praise. Simon is a bright man and full of the wise but this book is woven with fascinating history and anecdotes but also accessible to Billy thick like me who has yet to get past one Act of Shakespeare.

I think we will see the Abbott on our screens before long and Simon writing episode 10 from his yacht.
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on 29 July 2013
As a long-time fan of Simon's writing (I miss his weekly slots in the Daily Mail) I've bought just about everything he's published and thoroughly relished his writing. And now comes A Vicar Crucified!
Superb and engrossing. All I can say is, "More please Simon!"
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on 17 June 2013
I read 'A Vicar Crucified' while on holiday - it's quite a page-turner, and kept me up until the early hours one night! I thought the Enneagram chapters were well-integrated into the story - an unusual approach for a detective story, but it works really well.
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on 22 July 2013
A good whodunit with added interest in the psychological framework. I have no wish or need to say more, but Amazon refuses to post this unless there are at least 20 words. It would be interesting to know what psychological type dreamt up that nonsense!
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on 26 August 2013
Ticks all the boxes, but with more perception and gentle intelligent humour than many in this genre. Already ordered the next one to come out October and looking forward to it already.
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on 25 May 2013
This book is Simon Parke's first venture into the Murder Mystery genre, but those who have followed Simon from when he first started writing, will welcome the return of the likeable character of Abbot Peter, who was first encountered in Simon's Desert Trilogy stories recently brought together in the book 'Another Bloody Retreat'.

Abbot Peter has recently retired to the seaside town of Stormhaven, and is somewhat surprised and more than a little bit thrilled to be invited to help solve the unusual murder of the local priest.

Abbot Peter by his own admission knows people, usually better than they know themselves, he discerns and uses an ancient personality system to understand the forces of nature that are at work beneath the surface of human beings.

This book brings together two separate stories, one in the past and one in the present carefully woven together in a credible way.

What I really like about this book is Simon's ability to bring to life real people, people who are both dark and light, ordinary people who when pushed enough end up crossing what society might call an acceptable line.

I don't want to give away any of the story, because it is a very good read, but I really enjoyed the wise words and dry humour of Abbot Peter and the relationship that grows between him and his new working partner DI Shar.

There is plenty of intrigue, twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the last pages. I also liked that at the end of the book Simon chooses to take the reader back to each character to see how the land lies.

There were also times in the book when I felt compelled to stop for a moment to sit with a particularly powerful scene. Good writing has the ability to do that to me and this is wonderful writing from Simon Parke.

I'm looking forward to the next Abbot Peter Mystery.
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on 16 September 2013
I bought this because I have read other things Simon Parke has written and I was not disappointed. The plot twisted and turned, there was no way I was going to work out who done it! So why only 4 stars? I loved the plot, but thought the characters were all lacking in depth.. There was not one I had a real interest in. Abbot Peter was the exception, and that was because his mind moved in such an interesting and convoluted way, but the others? I confess that, though I was keen to know who did the dastardly deed, I didn't actually mind which one crucified the vicar.
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