A JOURNAL OF SIN by Darryl Donaghue

A pretty good police procedural.  The twist with this one is that it is like one of those Agatha Christie trapped in an isolated house themes, but here the inhabitants of a small English village are trapped due to a vicious storm that produced terrible flooding, cutting off all the roads out of the village, cutting off the cell phone, the telephone and the electricity.

Constable Sarah Gladstone, only on the police force — oh, pardon me, the police service, she is at pains to point out, — for two years,  had been visiting with her mother when the storm hit, and now is stuck in the village until the flooding goes down.

The elderly priest of the village goes missing.  The townspeople knowing she is with the police, come to her to help find him.  They want to report him as a missing person. As she reluctantly does what she can, looks in his rooms, the church, with the help of a geeky (or is it nerdy) alcoholic young divorced man.  She finds, buried deep in the flower pots of some plants, a number of small journals, dating back decades.  She takes them home to her mother’s house to read later, hoping for some clue in them.

When she holds a town meeting to advise of her findings, she is undermined by the elderly self-appointed town manager, who is there with his mousy quiet wife.  Sarah organizes a search of the woods, and the priest is found  partially buried deep in the woods.  The torrential rains have washed away part of the earth and leaf debris that had covered him.  An examination reveals terrible wounds, evidence of torture.

Now she has a homicide on her hands, no communication with her superiors, no help, and no clear idea of how she should handle this.  No forensics team, no one to officially examine the body, and in fact, nowhere to put the body.  Since the electricity has been off for a number of days, there is no refrigeration or freezers.  She talks the helpful young man into storing the body in his shed, where the odor is definitely off-putting and wafting into the house itself.

The young man turns out to have an injunction against him forbidding him to see his ex wife or child, but he is seriously stalking her through the computer.  That doesn’t look good, since the ex-wife had had a number of counseling sessions with the priest.  Did he write about it in the journal?

It also turns out the that priest had been keeping a journal of the sins of the parishioners who came to him for confession or counseling.  This news quickly gets around and a number of folks become quite anxious to possess those journals and destroy them.

She makes some bad judgment calls, but does the best she can, being just out of probationary status, and all alone, all the while being hampered by the old hotshot.

I enjoyed it, because it seemed to hit the right note as far as her competence and her frustration at the lack of machinery and help.  She was limited as to what she could do.

It rather telegraphed who the perp was, but that’s OK.  I guess right on so few of these,  that when I am actually on the correct scent, I feel like a big shot myself.

Nice mystery.  Hey, they all can’t be P. D. James.



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