Death Makes a Prophet by John Bude

Quirky crime…

🙂 🙂 🙂

Eustace K Mildmann is the unlikely founder of a new religion based on Egyptian gods, new age mysticism, vegetarianism, short trousers and general silliness. Even more unlikely is that this religion – The Children of Osiris, or Cooism – has attracted thousands of followers, including some of the wealthier residents of Welworth Garden City. Now, however, Eustace’s position as Head Prophet is in danger, with the rise of the charismatic fez-wearing Peta Penpeti, who may (or may not) be the reincarnation of an Egyptian priest. Penpeti has the advantage of appearing exotically foreign, which appeals greatly to the female members of the cult. Poor Eustace risks losing not only control of the cult but also the woman he worships to this usurper. Factions abound, secrets are hidden, rivalries fester. And when the whole cult is invited to take part in a festival in the grounds of its wealthiest benefactress, Mrs Alicia Hagge-Smith, all this simmering passion leads to murder…

The first half concentrates on describing the cult and its various adherents, and is mildly amusing. But although it goes on for a long time – too long – I never got any real feel either for what the religion was offering its followers, nor why so many people were attracted to it. It seemed to need a heftier suspension of disbelief than I could summon up. The second half becomes more serious after the murder is committed and Bude’s recurring detective, Inspector Meredith, is called in to investigate. The reader is privy to hints about the backgrounds of various characters so to some extent is ahead of the police. The actual murder method is nicely contrived and provides more of a mystery perhaps than the simple question of whodunit.

John Bude is apparently one of the most popular of the “forgotten” authors the British Library has resurrected, but for some reason I never find myself loving his books. They are well written, and this one in particular has a lot of humour around the quack religion and the various eccentric characters who are drawn towards it. But I think it’s that very eccentricity that stopped me from feeling involved – these are characters to laugh at, not to care about. And while I can enjoy a supporting cast of quirky characters, I prefer the central characters to have a greater feeling of realism. Unfortunately, I also find Inspector Meredith a rather bland detective – this is the third book I’ve read in this series and I would find it difficult to give any kind of character sketch of him.

Not one that stood out for me then – in fact, I’ll admit to skim-reading most of the second half because I had pretty much lost interest in the outcome by then. But, since other people clearly enjoy his style more than I, I accept my reaction is clearly subjective. If you like your crime fiction to be laced with humour and especially if you’ve appreciated Bude’s other books, then I expect you would enjoy this one too. Personally, I’ve preferred him when he’s been in more serious mode, but I don’t think I’m ever going to become a die-hard fan.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.

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24 thoughts on “Death Makes a Prophet by John Bude

  1. I know just what you mean, FictionFan. Sometimes, too much quirkiness, especially with central characters, can pull a reader out of the story. I think that’s especially true if there’s nothing that really resonates with the reader. It’s an interesting premise for a murder mystery, though, and I do like wit in my stories when it’s done well…

    • I think it’s just a mismatch between this author and me – somehow I never seem to love his books and yet other reviews suggest he’s very popular among Crime Classic readers. Here, I felt the humour wasn’t strong enough to make it wholly witty but prevented it from being taken seriously too…

  2. I can see myself really enjoying this one actually. Is it a bit of a cozy mystery? I like a nice dose of humour in my mysteries, especially when I can laugh at the characters.

    • It’s fairly cozy, although I was a bit surprised at the actual murder – it seemed darker than the style had led me to expect. But I definitely think it’s just me with this author – other people seem to enjoy him much more than I do, so it might work better for you…

    • Yeah, I hate skimming too, but I’d read more than half of it by that stage and was interested enough to find out how it ended without wanting to plough through any more of the investigation! The whole religion thing was kinda witty, but not witty enough…

    • I think it was when they said it had thousands of followers that I began to have credibility issues – it would have worked better for me if it had just been a few dozen locals! Oh well!

  3. I haven’t read anything by John Bude yet, but I do have The Sussex Downs Murder on my shelf. I have to admit, this book doesn’t sound very appealing to me, so I hope the one I have is better.

    • I have The Sussex Downs Murder too – it’s one of Martin Edwards’ 100 Crime Classics, so I’m hoping it might be Bude’s best one. I enjoyed the other two I’ve read more than this one because they were more serious – the wit really didn’t work for me in this. Fingers crossed for both of us!

  4. Well, I haven’t read any of his books (and it looks from your review that I might not be missing too much!). You know, there are LOTS of books to read but only a limited amount of time to read them, so I think I’ll put my efforts elsewhere. I do love you for admitting, though, that you resorted to skimming the entire second half!!

    • Ha! I seem to be getting more brutal about skimming and abandoning in response to my ever-growing TBR! Lots of people seem to like Bude’s style, but there are many authors in the Crime Classics series that I’ve enjoyed considerably more…

    • Yes, these old books can be variable (as can new ones, of course!) but for some reason Bude’s style just doesn’t seem to work for me. Fortunately I have plenty of other authors to try! 😀

    • It’s odd – lots of people really seem to enjoy Bude’s style, but it just doesn’t seem to work for me, and Meredith will never be my favourite inspector! Never mind – plenty of others to choose from… 😀

    • Funnily enough, Father Brown is another series I’ve never enjoyed as much as lots of other people do. This one would be pretty low on my list of recommended Crime Classics…

  5. I’ve read a couple of Budes and although I enjoyed them at the time, I find they don’t stick in my memory at all. I agree Meredith is bland, although at times this can be a welcome antidote to the alcoholic/socially awkward/complicated love life/maverick detectives which abound these days!

    • I’m glad it’s not just me that finds Meredith bland! I enjoyed the other two Budes I read more than this one, but none of them would make it onto my favourites list. I have one more to read though – The Sussex Downs Murder is one of the ones Martin Edwards lists in his 100 novels, so hopefully it’ll be a good one…

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