The Body Under the Bridge / by Paul McCusker. (A Father Gilbert Mystery) 6.29.2017

Lion Fiction ISBN 9781782641070

Adult Rating: 4 (Recommended with caution)

The Body under the Bridge finds former detective turned Anglican priest in a murder mystery that spans hundreds of years as well as natural and supernatural realms. A disturbing vision leads Father Gilbert to find a historic medallion of unknown worth and significance left behind on the belfry at St. Mark’s in Stonebridge, England. Following the vision and subsequent discovery, police investigate a well-preserved “bog-body” found under a historic bridge on land in the center of a development controversy. As Father Gilbert and Father Benson, the new, young curate at St. Mark’s, investigate further, more light is shed on dark matters until they fear for their own lives.

Father Gilbert’s personality is easy to love. Paul McCusker excels at creating sympathetic characters. Gilbert’s car is perpetually in the shop. He loves his church members and is dedicated to ministry and even prays occasionally for dead souls. Though he left Scotland Yard, the detective in him still can’t seem to resist solving a crime. The plot churns up dead bodies and adds an element of the supernatural–even of demonic influence–creating a mood of darkness and suspense.

An evil element oppresses certain characters making clear the difference between spiritual light and darkness. As Father Gilbert investigates further, he discovers that black masses have been held at St. Mark’s. There are non-explicit references to sexual temptation and orgies, and even Father Gilbert seems affected by some of the demonic activity and is shown to struggle with temptation. Gilbert and Benson witness a stabbing at a black mass that they stumble upon. Astral projections and near-death occurrences are mentioned. A couple of the secondary characters use mild expressions such as “Good Lord” and a “Good God.”

In spite of the darkness that shrouds this book, the redeeming element, besides a good who-dun-it, is the wisdom sprinkled throughout. “I know that coincidences, the pull of Truth, are all part of a providential conspiracy to get us to Him.” (p. 203) “Ironically it was death, his great nemesis, that pointed him to life.” (p. 72)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ