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The Rector
Michael Hicks Thompson
A Christian Murder Mystery (The Solo series Book 1)

A tantalizing murder mystery filled with chilling explorations of hypocrisy, true faith, and small-town secrets. Good versus evil, enveloped in an allegory of Christ’s ministry.

Martha McRae is a widow living in a small Mississippi Delta town in the 1950s. She’s obsessed with the sudden death of her Episcopal church’s young rector. A murderer could go free if she doesn’t investigate. But Martha is torn. If she pursues the suspect her Bible study friend’s awful secret would be revealed. It would be devastating, and life-changing. When the new rector arrives, Martha encounters a new puzzle to solve—one that takes her into Parchman Farm Penitentiary where she comes face to face with evil.

"This novel is for readers who'd love to read a good Agatha Christie-type mystery—one that morphs into a suspenseful thriller." Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine.

"Michael Thompson offers a tantalizing murder mystery filled with chilling explorations of hypocrisy, true faith, and small-town secrets. It's about sin and redemption. It's about the search for truth, in both the physical and spiritual realms. And it's all wrapped up in a puzzle that keeps even skeptics on their toes. The writing is compelling with a plot that grows ever thicker and offers even ardent mystery fans delightfully unexpected twists and turns. The intrigue is well developed with well-placed clues and cliffhangers. The characters are multidimensional and fascinating. The faith themes are so masterfully woven in that those who aren't religious should simply find the novel to be top-notch suspense." Diane Gardner, ForeWord's Clarion Review.

Read an Excerpt

The First Rector

Here'ss what the coroner told me.

“It's true, Martha. He died of a massive heart attack. My assistant was here 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.

* * *

"Yeah, he'd been in here before," Charlie Parker told the police. "Always sat right there at the counter. The man loved my barbeque ribs. Didn't know he was some sort of priest, though. Never wore one of those white collars… you know?"

None of the locals knew him, or had any idea what he was doing in Greenlee.

I had an idea why he was in Greenlee, and I knew him well.

Goodness, the man was only thirty-two, healthy as a mule—one reason why his death didn't sit right with me. I had my own reasons to believe he was murdered, and my suspicions of who did it. Just not how it was done.

In my newspaper office the next morning, I was 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? People see what they want to see. Besides, I'm not writing some story about Father Baddour's death. It's his obituary."

Oneeda brushed make-believe lint from her skirt and stood to leave. "Well, I believe he was seeing some woman."

I watched Oneeda walk out, knowing she was right. Betty Crain had told me privately, after one of our Bible studies, she happened to be in Greenlee one Saturday and saw Pastor Baddour drive into the Greenlee Alamo Motel with a woman—a woman who looked like Mary Grater, one of our Bible study regulars married to the wealthy Capp Grater.

"It was Mary, I’m telling you, Martha, it was her," Betty had told me.

Me? I prayed it wasn't Mary. And I couldn't tell Oneeda any of this. The phone line would be jammed for days.

Returning to his obituary, I hit a snag. What title should I give the man? Preacher, pastor, rector, priest, father?

As old-school Southern Episcopalians, we called him "Father" when talking with him. But when talking about him, we used "pastor," or "preacher."

I decided to go with "Rector David Baddour." More appropriate for an obituary.

Close to ten o'clock, not yet finished, I locked the Gazette's doors and walked home to change into something black for the funeral.

I was on the roadside when a car sped past, leaving a whirlwind of dust and cotton lint hanging thick in the air, reminding it was harvest season. It made me think of life in Solo. Slow. Plodding.

Not a care in the world. And nobody cared about us.

We did have one claim to fame. Solo was the closest town to notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary, ten miles south. For our entire lives Parchman remained a mystery. We'd all heard unsettling stories about the hardened criminals there. And their publicized escapes.

Growing up in Solo, I remember the older boys taunting, "Those bad men are gonna break out and come straight for you, Martha!"

Believe me, a young girl can have nightmares from such teasing.

Fiction, Christian Mystery Length: 342 Pages

Release Date: January 22, 2016 ISBN/ASIN: 978-0984528271

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About the Author

Born and raised on a Mississippi farm, Michael Hicks Thompson can claim more than a little knowledge about small towns, strong Christian women, alcoholic men, and Jesus. A writer of movie scripts and novels, Thompson is a self-taught artist, licensed offshore sailor, and scuba diver. He is the writer and director of the two-volume David, an illustrated novel on the life of King David. Volume one was awarded the Silver Medal IPPY from the Independent Publisher’s Association in 2011, with volume two winning the Best Graphic Novel award from International Book Awards in 2013.

Visit Michael Hicks Thompson online at www.shepking.com

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