Kate Charles

BOOKS and REVIEWS

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Montage of book covers

The ecclesiastical series featuring Anglican cleric Callie Anson:

The Book of Psalms Series (Lucy Kingsley and David Middleton-Brown novels) in order of publication:

Other novels:

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Cruel HabitationsCruel Habitations

German edition     Cruel Habitations German edition, In the Name of the Fathers

Time Warner Paperback, 2001
ISBN 0751525332

Little, Brown, 2000 (Hardback)
ISBN: 0316646229

April 1989: sisters Alison and Jacquie Barnett take a holiday to Greece neither of them will ever forget. For Alison falls in love, a love that is to define both their lives ...

Eleven years later, Sophie and Chris Lilburn leave London for a new life in Westmead, and a teaching job for Chris at the local cathedral school. But their delight is tempered by Sophie's longing for a child, by the sinister gossips who exercise control over the community, and by the unsolved murder of a young woman ...

When Jacquie's father dies, she discovers he has split everything equally with her sister, whom no one has seen for eleven years. And Jacquie, desperate for the money, has no choice but to try to trace her. It is a journey that takes her to Westmead, and stirs old emotions that will once more put lives in danger ...

Reviews: BookLoons Reviews | Mysterywomen.com Reviews | Bookfinder Review

"The book abounds with well-drawn characters, with the type of probing of their psyches that one finds in books by Elizabeth George. As a quote on the book jacket (from the Guardian, London) says, Charles' books are 'a blood-stained version of the world of Barbara Pym'. What more could an Anglophile reader want?" (G. Hall, BookLoons Reviews)

"With her rich cast of well-developed characters and eloquent prose, British author Charles (Strange Children; Unruly Passions; etc.) once again creates an absorbing mystery sure to appeal ... ." (Publishers Weekly)


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Strange ChildrenStrange Children

Time Warner Paperbacks, 2000
ISBN: 0751525421

Little, Brown, 1999 (Hardback)
ISBN: 0316646369

Friendless and virtually an orphan, Tessa craves a husband, a home and a baby: above all she wants to be loved. Against her better judgement she attends the wedding of her on-and-off lover, Ian, and finds that the bride thinks it amusing to sit her next to her own ex-amour, Rob Nicholls, but in a manner which takes both of them by surprise they embark on a heady, wholly satisfying romance.

After their own marriage, Tessa settles into a regime full of contentment, especially when she discovers she is pregnant. Yet, despite her material and emotional security, she finds that Rob's reluctance to allow her to meet his mother becomes increasingly vexing. Puzzled and a little hurt by his attitude she vows to discover the cause of the coolness between mother and son.
Then Linda Nicholls is murdered.

Deeply shocked, but more determined than ever to discover the truth about her mother-in-law, Tessa is plunged into a nightmare world of secrets, where nothing is as it seems, and her own life - and the life of her unborn child - are in danger.

Reviews: BookLoons Reviews

"It takes someone with the skill of Kate Charles to remind us that murder among the middle classes can be just as chilling and credible as death on the mean streets. ... The leisurely unravelling of the dark secrets of people passionately committed to keeping up appearances produces and intelligent and convincing story. One to hide from the vicar." (Val McDermid in the Manchester Evening News)


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Unruly PassionsUnruly Passions

Time Warner 1998
ISBN: 0751524379

Margaret Phillips, Archdeacon of Saxwell, is in the prime of her life. Her position in the church is testament to her exceptional ability, commitment and drive, as she effortlessly combines her clerical duties with a rock-solid marriage to the charming and devoted Hal. The couple are to discover, however that their smug stability is what makes them vulnerable.

For the sake of their Down's syndrome daughter, Daisy, Gervase Finch moves with his fiercely protective wife into the parsonage in the nearby village of Branlingham, before assuming the post of vicar. Although they love their spouses, Rosemary Finch and Hal Phillips are drawn together, both disturbed by ideals of womanhood: Rosemary competing with the ghost of Gervase's first wife, Hal married to a paragon.

Valerie Marler, a best-selling novelist; has also identified Hal as the object of her unruly passion. Ever the author, Valerie strives to rewrite her past failures by pursuing her fictional ideal, but when Hal refuses to play his part in her love story, her revenge threatens to descend into tragedy.

Kate Charles has deftly woven the threads of many contemporary obsessions into a chillingly credible tale of passion and suspense.

Reviews: Tangled Web | Fantastic Fiction

'Thoroughly entertaining' The Times
'Compulsive reading' Birmingham Post
'A blood-stained version of the world of Barbara Pym' The Guardian


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Evil Angels Among ThemEvil Angels Among Them

Evil Angels Among Them(The fifth book in the Book of Psalms series)

Mysterious Press, 1999
Time Warner, 1995

'Peaceful' is the most common entry in the visitors' book of fifteenth-century St Michael's Church, with its glorious angel roof and its medieval Doom painting. But outside the church, and under the surface, peaceful is scarcely the word for the tiny Norfolk village of Walston. The Rector's new bride, Becca Thorncroft, is receiving phone calls so unpleasant that her very sanity is at stake, and the newest residents of Walston, Gillian English and Lou Sutherland, are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Then sudden, gruesome death shatters even the outward peace of Walston. Fortunately for Father Stephen Thorncroft, his friends Lucy Kingsley and David Middleton-Brown are on hand to sort through the tangled relationships and dark motivations of the villagers, uncovering more than they bargain for. But it is not until a little girl goes missing that the final, deadly pieces fall into place in their search for the 'evil angels among them'.

"Quick-witted ... nice, tight plot." (New York Times Book Review)
"A special treat for readers who treasure the books of Agatha Christie and P.D. James, as deeply satisfying as afternoon tea by the fireplace, with a wise and witty storyteller for companionship." (Houston Chronicle)
"All is answered with Charles' consummate skill. This is another satisfying and first-rate novel from her pen." (Pen & Dagger)
"Kate Charles conveys with her usual elegance of style and form the vicissitudes of life in an English village and her wonderful understanding of the human heart." (Kate's Mystery Books Newsletter)
"Kate Charles writes with insight and authority ... The novel manages to resonate emotionally while exploring controversial themes with sensitivity and authenticity." (Mostly Murder)
"Don't try to hurry this one, or to second guess the villain's name: it's worth a whole evening, and a second read, my award for the care-and-delight of readers." (Rockland Courier-Gazette)


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A Dead Man Out of MindA Dead Man Out of Mind

(The fourth book in the Book of Psalms series)

A Dead Man Out Of MindMysterious Press
ISBN: 0446404322

'A woman priest at St Margaret's? Over my dead body!'

Dolly Topping, head of the national organisation 'Ladies Opposed to Women Priests' and wife of one of the churchwardens, feels that strongly about it. It is unfortunate, therefore, that Father Julian, the well-loved curate of St Margaret's, should have been killed in a burglary gone wrong. And doubly unfortunate that the Vicar, upwardly-aspiring William Keble Smythe, should choose to appoint a woman to replace him. From the moment that Rachel Nightingale enters the serene Anglo-Catholic world of St Margaret's, tempers and emotions run high; Christian charity is not much in evidence, even among those who espouse it most loudly.

Meanwhile, solicitor David Middleton-Brown finds his life complicated by difficult clients and a trying visit from Lucy Kingsley's teenage niece Ruth. Then he becomes involved as an unwilling pawn in a dangerous game of bluff and double bluff between a pair of scheming churchwardens and a Vicar with an agenda of his own. Why are Martin Bairstow and Norman Topping determined to sell the church's silver? Why is Father Keble Smythe prepared to allow them to do it? And what does it all have to do with the new female curate? Most importantly of all, perhaps, why has no one told David about what happened to their last curate?

Then another 'accidental' death at St Margaret's unites its parishioners in new heights of hypocrisy, and leaves Ruth Kingsley crying 'murder'. But David remains sceptical - until he learns about Father Julian's death. With the encouragement of the Archdeacon and interference from Ruth, he and Lucy embark on a search for the truth about the 'dead man out of mind', and discover more than they ever wanted to know about greed, hypocrisy, ambition - and the cost of love.

Reviews: The Books | Word of Mouth

"The modern ecclesiastical mystery ... is a fast-growing sub-group of whodunnitry; no one is more skilled at it than Kate Charles. With the lightest of touches, she weaves the goriest murders into a convincing and provocative backdrop of clerical politics. ... Thoroughly entertaining, even to those of no religious bent." (The Times [London])
"The plot is absolutely gripping, and what's more, a few of the characters actually display Christian charity." (Church Times)
"Bless her for elevating our spirits with this unorthodox work." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Along with its adroitly drawn main characters, this gripping novel offers a finely etched supporting cast." (Publishers Weekly [starred review])
"Charles portrays the Church of England as more bitchy, and with more egotistic pretty boys, than a Julian Clary lookalike convention. Shades of Agatha Christie machinations, but with rather more attention to character." (Yorkshire Post)


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Appointed To DieAppointed to Die
Appointed To Die

(The third book in the Book of Psalms series)

Warner Books, 1994
ISBN: 044640361X

Death at the Deanery - sudden and unnatural death. Someone should have seen it coming. For even before Stuart Latimer arrives as the new Dean of Malbury Cathedral, shock waves reverberate through the tightly-knit and insular Cathedral Close, heralding sweeping changes in a community that is not open to change. And the reality is even worse than the expectation - the Dean's naked ambition and ruthless behaviour alienate everyone in the Chapter: the Canons, gentle John Kingsley, vague Rupert Greenwood, pompous Philip Thetford, and especially Subdean Arthur Brydges-ffrench, a traditionalist who resists change most strongly of all. Others in the Close have reason to fear the Dean as well: Jeremy Bartlett, the Cathedral Architect, who is playing a dangerous game of double-dealing; Evelyn Marsden, the spinster whose home is at stake; Rowena Hunt, head of the Friends of the Cathedral, whose own ambitions drive her into an unholy alliance with the Dean; and even Police Inspector Michael Drewitt, who spends more of his off-duty time in the Close than a married man should.

Financial jiggery-pokery, clandestine meetings, malicious gossip, and several people who see more than they ought to: a potent mix. But who could foresee that the mistrust and even hatred within the Cathedral Close would spill over into violence and death? Canon Kingsley's daughter Lucy draws in her lover David Middleton-Brown, against his better judgement, and together they probe the surprising secrets of a self-contained world where nothing is what it seems.

Reviews: The Books | Campusi.com

"Her pointed satirical style produces amusing characters and wonderfully awkward moments in the life of a community so stultifyingly inbred that a festival of flower arranging counts as blood sport." (The New York Times Book Review)
'No fireworks. No histrionics. Just a tantalising unfolding, like a good story told over companionable tea-cups." (Eastern Daily Press, Norwich)
"Fascinating behind the scenes cathedral politics." (Sunday Telegraph)
"Here is a superior example of the modern mystery novel in which atmosphere, characterisation and setting cast an unbroken spell." (The Irish Independent)
"A disarming comedy of clerical manners ... What you'd expect if Trollope decided that what the Barsetshire novels needed to juice them up was a tincture of illicit (albeit well-bred) passion and homicide." (Kirkus Reviews)
"An absorbing, complex book worth reading." (CADS)


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The Snares of DeathThe Snares of Death

German edition   The Snares of Death, German edition

(The second book in the Book of Psalms series)

Mysterious Press 1993
ISBN: 0892964987

Everyone agrees that Bob Dexter, the prominent Evangelical clergyman, has a great deal of personal charisma. Those who know him realise that he also has an unshakable faith in his own righteousness, and a real talent for rubbing people up the wrong way. It is no surprise, therefore, that someone should want to kill him. In fact, when the Reverend Dexter moves to a small Norfolk parish, traditionally Anglo-Catholic, and begins remoulding it in his own image, it seems only a matter of time. The real question becomes: who will get to him first?

His distraught parishioners are not the only ones with good reason to want to remove him - permanently. Dexter has also fallen afoul of a group of ardent animal rights activists, and his heavy-handed efforts to take over the leadership of an Evangelical protest movement have made him very unpopular with its founder. And there are undercurrents in his seemingly tranquil home life: both his downtrodden wife Elayne and his adored daughter Becca have secrets that Dexter does not even begin to suspect - until the fateful and eventful day of his death. Solicitor David Middleton-Brown and his artist-friend Lucy Kingsley step in to investigate. Their search for the truth culminates at the annual National Pilgrimage to Walsingham, where Anglo-Catholic pomp clashes with heated Evangelical protest, and feelings run perilously high. Too late, perhaps, David realises the danger: will he be in time to prevent a second murder?

Reviews: Campusi.com

"The writing is elegant ... to match the apparently normal little English town beneath which lurks the kind of emotion that stirred murder throughout the works of Agatha Christie." (Sunday Telegraph)
"There is real tenderness ... in her detailed portraits of the faithful, from the sensitive student of church architecture who functions as sleuth to the dear old church biddies who arrange the flowers and spread the gossip with as much relish as the witches in Macbeth." (The Sunday New York Times Book Review)
"Charles deftly mixes religious rites and politics with her own insight into human behavior. Discerning mystery readers pray for good books like this one." (Orlando Sentinel)


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A Drink of Deadly WineA Drink of Deadly Wine

A Drink of Deadly Wine

(The first book in the Book of Psalms series)

Headline 1991
ISBN: 074720442X

Father Gabriel Neville has everything going for him: intellectual prowess, physical beauty, a wife who adores him and beautiful twin children; he also has a prestigious church job at St Anne's, Kensington Gardens, in London, and the prospect of promotion to Archdeacon. But his perfect world is shattered when he receives an anonymous letter threatening to expose a dangerous secret from his past - something that could destroy his career and his marriage - something that no one could possibly know.
The only person Gabriel can turn to is David Middleton-Brown, an old friend and a man with a few secrets of his own. Against his better judgement, David comes to London to stay with another old friend, Daphne Elford, the Sacristan at St Anne's.

Discreet enquiries bring to light a whole host of suspects: the eccentric church organist, Miles Taylor; gossip Mavis Conwell; the disapproving Dawson family; Churchwarden Cyril Fitzjames, in love for years with Gabriel's wife Emily; even Emily Neville's charming and talented friend, the artist Lucy Kingsley. In his efforts to help Gabriel uncover the blackmailer, David hauls some skeletons out of cupboards, and enters into a web of relationships that threaten his own peace of mind.

And then one of the suspects is found dead - is it suicide or murder? And what does this death have to do with Gabriel's dilemma? David goes looking for secrets - and finds much more than he bargained for ...

"A bloodstained version of the world of Barbara Pym ... could make one late for Evensong." (The Guardian)
"Characters dotty enough to have wandered in from an Angela Thirkell novel ... pomp and pageantry ... and a neatly contained plot." (New York Times Book Review)
"Thoughtful, mature, and mesmerizing ... a mystery very reminiscent of Pym." (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"A stunning debut. The author ... brilliantly lures the reader down one track, then another, always managing to surprise." (Chicago Sun-Times)
"Charles ... [mixes] sex and ecclesiastics in her complex first mystery." (Publishers Weekly)
"A fine debut by a talented writer ... secret lives, shady pasts and intrigue ... a neat twist at the end ... a good read." (Belfast Telegraph)


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