Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review: The Liturgical Mystery series

As we were planning our first post for the PresbyBloggers Book Club, Justice Seeker emailed me some book titles that she gleaned from posts of members of the webring as possible club selections.

One of them really caught my eye: The Alto Wore Tweed, one of a series of Liturgical Mysteries written by Mark Schweizer. Since there wasn't any interest in including it as a book club selection, I'm going to review the Liturgical Mysteries series for you today.

Woo-hoo! I really LOVE these books!

I've read five of the six in the series so far and the only reason I haven't finished the sixth one is because there isn't a seventh one (yet) and I'm pacing myself. So far there is one about an alto, tenor, bass, soprano, mezzo, and baritone. I'm afraid once Schweizer writes a mystery about a countertenor he'll quit! Maybe he could then write about a duet, trio, quartet, quintet, etc.

Anyone who has ever sung in a church choir, served on a church staff or church committee, or just observed the foibles of church folk on a daily basis will find something to laugh about in these books, such as : the Fung Shui Altar Guild, the Puppet Moment, the Clown Eucharist, the Womyn's Conference (a parody of the Re-Imagining Conference), the Edible Last Supper featuring the Mary Magdalene Coffee bar; the Penguin at the Manger , the Blessing of the NASCAR car, or --drumroll please--The Weasel Cantata.

Sample lyrics from The Weasel Cantata (from The Baritone Wore Chiffon):

The Weasel Cantata, it's not a sonata
You cannot eat weasel, though it may taste fine
Or lizards or vermin, 'cause they commence to squirmin'
Leviticus: eleven, verse twenty nine.

There is a bona fide murder mystery in each book for mystery fans. The protagonist of the series is Hayden Konig, part-time choir director at the Episcopal church St. Barnabus, and full time police detective in a small North Carolina mountain town. He calls himself a "liturgical detective." The author is a church musician himself, and it shows. In fact he sprinkles the books with many references to his favorite sacred music CD's, sending me again and again to my ITunes to check them out.

My favorite part of the books are the song parodies. In fact, if you want to order the books you can get them from the publisher's website at a discount! I wrote a couple of posts about these books on my blog and I notice that some of them are now sold out at Just call me "Oprah".

The website also has audio files of the following inspiring songs from the books, as well as downloads of the music scores:

The Mouldy Cheese Madrigal
The Weasel Cantata
The Pirate Gloria

I recommend when you finish reading one of the books you pass it on to your favorite choir director. Then persuade him to include the Pirate Gloria or the Weasel Cantata in a future worship service. Just to see if anyone is paying attention.

And remember that next Thursday is PresbyBloggers Book Club day. We'll be discussing The Shack, a best-selling book which has drawn both praise and criticism. Join us!


Sarahlynn said...

Thank you so much for pointing me toward these novels; I've added them to my birthday wish list!

I'm working on a series of mysteries set around a Presbyterian church, myself, so this is always an interest of mine.

Elaine said...

Hmmm, another writer/blogger in the Ring. Tribal Church was written by a Blogring member. Jane's Journey is working on a book. Now, Sarahlynn as well.

Monthly book club could become a serious family affair.

Norman, OK

Quotidian Grace said...


How exciting! I look forward to publication of your series.

Sarahlynn said...

Ack! I'm only about 50 pages into The Alto Wore Tweed, but I'm not having any fun so far. Does the main character continue to be such a chauvinist pig throughout the entire series? If so, I might put the books down right now; I can experience plenty of that in real life without reading about it for "fun!" I rarely quit a book. I'll finish the first one, and if I'm still finding it painful, I'll just donate it and the other I received as birthday presents to an organist or choir director somewhere else. Somewhere where it's OK to have a "slight bias" against all female clergy, well qualified female police officers are automatically "affirmative action hires," and feminists are roundly disparaged. Argh!