Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Rector by Michael Hicks Thompson Proves to be Fun, Fabulous Murder Mystery!

If you are wondering what this is...well, I'll have to tell you because I'm not good at taking selfies! Anyway, this is the only part I could pick up--it's part of the apron that was sent along with the book, The Rector... It seems that it's always worn by Martha, the main character...and I needed to wear it while I was reading the book to get the full effect of this woman...LOL
Just kidding about my wearing it while I read...but it was fun to receive as a bonus!

"It's true, Martha. He died of a massive heart attack," the coroner told me. "My assistant was her during the autopsy. The little twit must've run out and told everybody in town."
Word spreads fast in Solo, Mississippi.
Our rector, Pastor David Baddour, was found slumped over his plate at Charlie's Place in Greenlee, thirty miles north.
Mighty young to die of heart failure, I thought.

...I was in my newspaper office the next morning, ready to write Pastor Baddour's obituary when Oneeda Mae Harpole strolled in. She was my friend and Solo's busiest gossip.
She plopped down in my creaky guest chair and proceeded to stare at me--her usual way of letting me know she wanted to talk. I paused to learn what gossip or opinion she'd brought.
She leaned so close I could smell her Juicy Fruit gum. "Martha, I hope you're not writing some puff-pastry story about the preacher. You should tell the truth. Father Baddour was seeing a married woman."
"What? We don't have any facts, Oneeda. Only rumors."
"Remember? Betty told us in Bible study. She saw him go into that Alamo Motel with some woman." Oneeda reminded me.
"And you trust everything Betty says?...

The Rector:
A Christian Murder Mystery

By Michael Hicks Thompson

I'm smiling because I can see it right now--there will be comments that "this is not a Christian" book since there are clearly sinners as characters... It's sad to add my endorsement that in the many small-town churches (and I'm sure larger ones too), you will always find individuals who have gone against God's word... So, please, do take the opportunity to enjoy this book without prejudice... Admit it, we are all sinners saved by God's grace...

And one of the ways we can look at ourselves and see some of the things we should think about is reading what can happen inside the church walls! So laugh, have fun with the story, and enjoy how God may see us--and strive to improve--it's my guess that is the reason the author wrote the book... 

If you remember, and liked the Father Dowling Mysteries in the early 90s, then prepare to similarly enjoy the fun and mystery solving done then, only now with the setting of the Episcopal Church...

I asked God to put my heart in the right
place. Is my determination to bring a
possible killer to justice more important
that risking...
As if my prayer was answered on the spot
a thought materialized something.
Pastor Davidson had said in a recent
sermon: "A true preacher is merely the
delivery for God's word. In fact, we're all
delivery boys. Me. You. Every one of us...
That's me. That's who I am. The mailman
for Solo, A delivery boy. 
Maybe I'm
meant to deliver Pastor Baddour's
murderer and let God fulfill His promise:
"For those who love God all things work
together for good, for those who are
called according to his purpose." He
takes care of his children...After that
reassuring thought, I fell asleep.
I should've stayed awake all night.

Martha had grown closer to the Rector than many of his congregation. When he had first come to town, he had been sent to her for lodging. They had seen each other every day, she had fixed his meals and sometimes ate with him. When she learned that he'd died, she immediately felt that it had not been natural.

She had been right... And, if necessary, she would work to find out what really happened to him... Now she's not just interested as a friend, since she also runs the local newspaper agency--which, of course, required her to have details of what was happening in their small town.

But there was a woman in their Bible Study that could indeed have become involved with the Rector. In fact, she had shared her story years ago and revealed to the church women there that she had run away from home at 15 and had gone into prostitution...After confessioning, the women had all become closer--but that didn't stop the gossip that was rampant inside and outside the church.

An interesting side plot was the problem that arose since the pulpit now had to be filled again. Not earlier considering that possibility, they had appointed a man, a beekeeper and farmer who normally looked and acted as just what he was. Suddenly he was not a man to be sent to talk to the church hierarchy...espectially according to the man who led the administrative group of the church... But with a little manipulation by Martha, his position was upheld and he began his job to find a replacement. The first response was that there was a shortage of available pastors and the church would have to wait...

But within a short time, a man showed up at Martha's door to find a place to stay, introducing himself as Father Thomas Cain who suggested they call him preacher since that was part of his background and he immediately started so many different things that the church filled every Sunday. Let's just say that problems began to happen and JJ, the man who had been responsible for obtaining the Rector publicly spoke out against what was happening... But the Rector had quickly become close with the head of the Board and JJ was ignored.

Until, JJ, too, was murdered...

Martha wanted to exhume Father Baddour to confirm how he died, but in the meantime, she began to discover many who could have been involved. For instance, there was the mailman who steamed open everybody's mail but, who, even Martha herself used, when it was discovered that mail was not being delivered to the correct town members, all from the church. I'll stop there and merely add that this book is very much character driven and each individual has that strong feel of a small-town a small-town church...

It's hard not to enjoy the humor of the situation just as much as the murder mystery. Martha is a strong character who presents a few flaws when her obsession in solving the crimes became paramount. And it is gratifying to watch the evolution of the church and its members as everything occurred within their town and congregation. This is one of those books that I want to just keep telling you about all the great situations, plots and sub-plots that have been provided. Not only is that telling too much, but the story line becomes so complex--with concurrent and intertwined situations which keeps readers guessing what is going to happen next--that you can't easily break issues out. 

While you're enjoying page after page, however, there is no way you'll be prepared for the climax of the story.

I loved this one and add it to my personal favorites for 2016... Do check it out! BTW, you can learn more about the main character, Martha, if interested!


Michael Hicks Thompson was birthed in his mother’s own bed. His family lived so far out on a farm in the woop woop, hospitals weren’t an option. A mid-wife was there with a bowl of hot water–so he was told. The family moved into the tiny town of Bentonia (Yazoo County) when Michael was five, youngest of four boys.

Being raised in such a small Mississippi town (population, 210), he claims to know a thing or two about strong southern women, alcoholic men, and quirky characters. I suppose that’s why he ran as fast as he could … to the South’s wildest party school at the time, Ole Miss. Only by the grace of God is he still alive … 23 broken bones from fights, football, and a couple of major Harley massages. He laid her down in the mountains of North Carolina. Not a pretty picture. Eight bones broke that time.

Marriage and grad school at the University of South Carolina for a masters’ degree in mass communication settled him down. (He claims God settled him down when He changed his heart forever.)

Michael moved to Memphis and started a one-man ad agency at age 27. The firm, Thompson & Company, grew to 87 employees in two cities—Memphis and Nashville. He was CEO / creative director / copywriter for over 30 years. The agency won more than its fair share of national and international booty for creativity. Michael sold the firm in 2011.

Novel writing started as a hobby, along with oil painting. He wrote, art directed, and published two graphic novels on the life of David from the Old Testament—DAVID—The Illustrated Novel *. Michael couldn’t figure out why God said David was a man after his own heart. So he wrote about it. Successfully.

Volume 2 won first place BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL and BEST INTERIOR DESIGN, 2012, from THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. Volume 1 won 2nd Best Graphic Novel of 2011 from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

A novella received finalists awards in the Beverly Hills Book Awards and Clarion’s Mystery & Mayhem. In 2011 Michael penned a sci-fi thriller (JALA) that was serialized in a monthly magazine for an entire year. He’s re-writing and looking for a publisher or movie producer for this thriller.

Michael is a licensed sailboat captain (having sailed most of the Caribbean Islands many times) and scuba diver. He’s a Kairos team member (prison ministry); been to Cuba twice on door-to-door evangelism mission trips; been a featured speaker at large (500+) conventions; taught night classes at Memphis College of Art; and Sunday School for college/career singles. He’s an honorary deputy sheriff in Mississippi and Tennessee, and licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

He was King of Carnival Memphis in 1997. Michael is still in the business world as Board Chairman of a Mississippi Delta manufacturing company. (I know most of this minutia only because he made me include it.)

While he was fretting over his writing The Parchman Preacher, I told him, “You wrote advertising copy for thirty years! Holy dooly, man, you’ve been writing fiction for three decades!”

Now he really does write fiction—Christian novels that entertain, intrigue, and shine a light on his Jesus. (Who knows? Maybe one day Michael will convince me about this Jesus of his.)

I think he’s most proud of their three grown sons—all of them born-again Christians; two wonderful daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. Oh, I should’ve mentioned … he’s been married to the same fantastic lady (and my dear friend) for forty-three years. She’s a bigwig in the Garden Club of America. Tempe Adams Thompson. Michael’s proud of her.

Michael loves the works of C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, Tim Keller, and J.I. Packer; and for fiction he likes to read books by Brandilyn Collins, Nelson DeMille, Laura Hillenbrand, Michael Crichton (RIP), and his friend, Carolyn Haines.

His four years in Oxford were wasted. And I don’t think he cared much for the great works of Faulkner. Evidently, Michael spent more time drinking cheap wine on Faulkner’s grave under full moon nights than reading the genius of the literary giant. The bloke lived directly across from Faulkner’s headstone.

Neither does Michael The Storyteller like the ‘filler’ in most of today’s mystery books: “Too many paragraphs upon paragraphs of superfluous character and setting detail. I ‘d rather keep my reader on a fast pace. There’s a certain amount of ‘backstory’ needed in the beginning, but no author wants his reader to put the book down until The End.”

Michael enrolled in two Media Bistro Master Novel Writing courses out of NYC. Caitlin Alexander, former editor with Random for eleven years, was the instructor. She edited his first mystery. He’s a member of the ACFW, Mystery Writers of America, The International Crime Writers Association, the Southern Writers Association, and more than I’m willing to include.

I do believe Michael should’ve been born next door to me, in Sydney. He has our down-under sense of humor, winner take all attitude. He really is the dinky-di from woop woop who learned how to spin a yarn as good as gold.

Well now … I’m pretty sick of writing about Michael. I’d rather write about his wife, Tempe, or me, for that matter; but he says there’s no more space. Rubbish.

I’m David Weekes, an Aussie ad man from Sydney and good friend of my good friend Michael. You can email me, I can answer any question you have about me. Hooroo.

* BTW, you shouldn’t miss the pic of Michael with Goliath and the ark of the covenant on his site.

The crazy bloke had these life-size replicas made for a book signing tour. How ridiculous is that? I warn you … be careful. He’s dangerous.

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