When I first created this blogspot and shamelessly began to promote it, a number of people commented and followed me, including 33-year old Irish thriller author Aidan J. Reid. I followed his blog back, and by the by, I saw that he had promoted his latest novel Sigil by offering the eBook on Amazon for free (but only for a limited period of time). I hadn’t read a mystery in decades and wasn’t sure how I’d experience “Sigil,” but I decided to download it onto my Kindle Fire.
The novel starts with a bang. Really, I was hooked from the first few pages on. Sigil chronicles the activities of Catholic Priest Tom Regan, who is the Parish Priest of the small town of Ballygorm.
What appears to be a tragic suicide becomes a mystery wrapped in intrigue as Father Regan, walking in the footsteps of his favorite television detective, uncovers a conspiracy not just to hide a murder, but something much more terrifying.
One step at a time, Regan unravels years of secrecy and sinister plots, revealing that the sleepy farming community of Ballygorm is anything but the idyllic rural setting it appears to be.
One of the outstanding qualities of this book is the level of detail Reid applies to each of his characters. He doesn’t describe them to you so much as allows you to experience their lives. It gives the story a more authentic feel.
The downside, at least for me, is that even the minor characters get nearly the same amount of detail as the primary ones, which was kind of distracting. I knew more about them than the story really required, especially the ones with “bit parts” who disappeared halfway through the book.
I also had trouble keeping track of who was who, especially since there were a lot of scene shifts from one chapter to the next. Of course, that could be just an effect of my failing attention span, and I think the frequent shifts were a device Reid used to keep his readers guessing as to who the culprits really were.
I don’t know about small Irish towns, but I’ve lived in a few small American towns, and the list of “usual suspects” you’ll find in most farming villages seemed well represented. Everybody knows everybody else and tongues do wag quite a bit.
The idea of a Priest detective is nothing new, but the role placed Father Regan in a position that both allowed him access to people and resources most of us wouldn’t have, and tended to engender trust in many of the citizens of Ballygorm, even those who weren’t religious.
The realist in me was bothered by how much information Regan withheld from the police. I don’t know about Ireland, but in the U.S., it’s illegal to withhold evidence from law enforcement, particularly involving a capital crime. As it turned out, this was a good thing, but the first time Regan came across a clue he did not share with police, he didn’t seem to have a good reason to do so.
In spite of that, “Sigil” is a page turner. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next, and I was sometimes frustrated that I wasn’t reading the book fast enough to find out how the mystery would be solved.
I won’t spoil the fun for you, but when everything came out, I still found myself wondering if the motivation for these people to do what they did and be a part of the group they were members of was sufficient. I know the surprise reveal is part of solving a mystery, providing the reader with a big shock at the story’s climax, but since Reid is very good at building up the background of his characters, I’d like to have seen him devote a few more pages to who the main “bad guy” was and what led said “bad guy” to assume their role.
The ending made me sad, but I won’t tell you about that part, either.
The subtitle of the novel is “A Tom Regan Thriller,” so I find myself wondering if this might not be the last time we’ll encounter Father Regan investigating a murder.
Then again, how many murders does the average Priest come across in the course of his career?
Bottom line, if you love mysteries and quirky characters, then “Sigil” is well worth your time. It’s not perfect (few novels are), but it’s definitely in the neighborhood.
Here’s the link to my Review on Amazon.com.