A faith commune located in the Ontario Highlands seems the least likely setting for a potential homicide. Yet members and visitors alike grappling with shady pasts and gripping present temptations make the possibility a much more likely scenario. Join Inspector Bevyn Jones, former monk, in Davyd Gosselin’s murder mystery Murder at Matins in determining the truth of a priest’s drowning at midnight. I’ve given Davyd’s book 4 out of 5 stars. His weaving of red herrings, dropping of clues, and honest canvassing of the human condition made this an intriguing, beginning of the year read.
Following in the great Agatha Christie’s footsteps and many other murder mystery authors, Davyd arranges a wide variety of personalities and possible motives amongst a large cast of possible suspects. Some of these characters are members of the faith commune, and others are people from the surrounding area who are acquainted or friends with the members. Almost every one of them is suspicious, hence the fun scattering of red herrings throughout the story. Brother Bob and Chad were the first and obvious choices because of their irritability and lack of empathy toward most of the other characters. They were quickly substituted with MacLean and Lena, the couple who run the faith commune, because an undercover Brother Johnathan was looking into MacLean’s underhanded financial dealings. As for Lena, her sexual temptations didn’t paint her in the most trustworthy light. One or two others followed as possible suspects before the finale was finally revealed and the true perpetrator(s) were brought to justice.
Another fun aspect of the book was the way Davyd dropped his clues. At first, it seems erratic without much sense, but the reader soon sees how many of the clues tie together. Slowly, a larger portion of the night in question is unshaded throughout the book while still leaving enough unanswered to surprise the reader when Inspector Bevyn Jones announces who killed the commune priest. The book was well paced because of the craft and care the author took in planting his clues.
Finally, a strong proponent of this book is how colourful much of the supporting cast was. A large part of their colour was due to the histories, motives, and temptations that the author fleshed out. These descriptions weren’t extraneous in the least. They were relevant to the story at hand. They never stole the spotlight from the pacing of the murder mystery. They were always written in short, snappy paragraphs that added depth the moment they were most useful or needed.
Overall, I enjoyed Davyd’s book. It gave me a nostalgic feeling as it brought me back to my teen years when I greedily consumed Agatha Christie’s works. There were a couple of reasons why it didn’t make it to 5 stars. First, they were several times during dialogue when it wasn’t clear which character was speaking. These moments of unclarity didn’t last long. However, there were enough that my confusion sometimes overcame my grasp of the story at hand. Second, though the supporting cast was a delight to dive into, Inspector Bevyn Jones and his ex-fiance detective weren’t as interesting despite their being the main characters. I believe a greater fleshing out of these main characters would make the story even stronger. It could be because I dove into the series starting with the second book instead of the first. A strong supporting cast, crafty red herrings, and good pacing make this an enjoyable, easy to read in one week book. You can purchase a copy on Amazon.
To hear from the author himself about his works and his writer’s process (I also share my own), watch our interview here.