As he went to leave, he noticed The Times lying on the arm of the settee…there, a few inches above the crossword, was the face that had looked up at him from the presbytery floor that afternoon.
He stood gazing down at the photograph. The patrician stare was just as it had been, only the dress was different: then it was black, high-buttoned coat; now it was mitre and full canonicals, and the hand, with its episcopal ring, was gripped round the haft of a crozier…
Maurice Campion, of course! He should have recognized him at once – how many times had he seen that face on newsreel or in television debates. He frowned. But why had the Bishop been in Canterbury on a winter afternoon? Above all, why incognito?
He remained staring down at the photograph for a few seconds longer, then suddenly impatient, he crumpled the paper and threw it into the basket.
observations: After reading a scholarly biography of Thomas Becket, and TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, the blog moves on to a crime story concerned with the possible discovery of Becket’s bones, an eventuality which the author rather charmingly thinks would rock the England of 1990 to its foundations: ‘that thing we’ve dug up is like an unexploded bomb’. The protagonist is a retired Colonel, with a background in Intelligence, working out his retirement at Canterbury Cathedral. Murder in the Close is always a good start, and then there are spies from the 1930s and some Cold War stuff - had MDA perhaps been writing the story for a while, then the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 meant he quickly had to do some extra work?
It’s a very strange mishmash, with all these threads, and a feel to it that would belong more in the 1950s at best or even the 1930s, but it is true that the Becket parallels are very carefully placed, and work very well – striking if, like Clothes in Books, you’ve just been reading about the saint.
It’s nice to think anyone would consider the Anglican church important enough to plot against - ‘undermine from within, hasn’t that always been the Soviets’ way?’ As the New York Times once told us, the Church of England is ‘all that stands between us and Christianity.’
Links on the blog: The two earlier Becket stories, links above. Saints featured in this entry.
The picture, from the UK’s National Archives, shows Michael Ramsay, who became Archbishop of Canterbury before the time of this book – he was Archbishop of York at the time of the photo.