More than 300 names are on the list of religious crime solvers. The most recent is Father Nicholas Fortis.
The Greek Orthodox priest, the creation of Franklin College religion professor David Carlson, makes his debut in “Enter by the Narrow Gate.”
Father Fortis teams with Detroit homicide detective Christopher Worthy to unravel a series of intertwining mysteries involving a runaway college student, a troubled New Mexico teenager and a slain nun.
The novel starts with the death of the nun in a retreat house in New Mexico, where Father Fortis is visiting to do research into early Christian music. At the same time, in Detroit, a student from a small, private liberal arts college goes missing while on a school-sponsored archaeology trip to New Mexico.
Worthy, whose own daughter had gone missing but returned home, is asked by the missing girl’s family to find her. In New Mexico, he is reunited with Father Fortis, whom he had met during an earlier murder case.
The back story involving the pair of crime solvers is detailed, and the allusions might make readers wonder if there was an earlier Worthy/Fortis mystery. But the author said this is the first book they appear in.
By the way, the second book in the series is completed and awaiting publication, and Carlson already has written a third.
The writing in the novel is straightforward, but Carlson’s descriptions of scenery give each episode a clear sense of place. His background in religious studies and teaching allows him to explore the spirituality of the various characters in a way that will be clear to readers, no matter their backgrounds.
The book is more police procedural than whodunit. Readers meet the killer in only the final few chapters, and his motivation isn’t as fully explored as it is for other characters in the novel.
But the real joy in reading this mystery lies in Carlson’s exploration of how faith shapes reasoning and actions, rather than simply the action itself. Thus Father Fortis can proudly take his place in a list of religious detectives that includes Father Brown, Brother Cadfael and Rabbi David Small.
Title: “Enter by the Narrow Gate”
Author: David Carlson
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Rich Gotshall is a retired journalist and Franklin resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org