Lord Francis Powerscourt

(creator: David Dickinson)

Lord Francis Powerscourt Is an Irish aristocrat, educated at Eton then Cambridge University. He served with distinction with army intelligence in India and Afghanistan. After leaving the Army, some eight years before the story reviewed below, he married Lady Lucy Elliott and is now the parent of two small children, Thomas and Olivia. He is regarded as "one of the foremost investigators in Britain, solving mysteries and murders that once went right into the heart of the Royal Household himself". He has just returned from a special mission in South Africa, undertaken on the express orders of the Prime Minister.

No one questions his authority so when a man's severed leg is discovered, he has no problem in suggesting to the chief inspector that he and Johnny Fitzgerald (his old comrade in arms) "could search the Cathedral and the close if that would make your life easier."
"Thank you very much, Lord Powerscourt," said the ever grateful chief inspector - and Powerscourt has no hesitation in walking off with the dead man's keys that he discovered in the trouser pocket.

His only real claim to be a clerical detective is that, when locked into a cathedral overnight after an attempt on his life, he sat down in the bishop's chair and "enjoyed being a Bishop (even if) he wasn't quite sure precisely what a Bishop of Compton would do when he sat there." But he knew his Bible and could identify that "a prophet is not without honour save in his own country" came from "St Matthew's Gospel, chapter thirteen if I remember right." But the real reason that I haveI included him here is that the whole of the novel Death of the Chancellor (reviewed below) is set in and around Compton Minster and its conspiring clergy, and it makes an interesting and entertaining read!

David Dickinson was born in Dublin. With an honours degree in Classics from Cambridge, he joined the BBC in 1969 as a scriptwriter in Talks and Features, External Services. He eventually became editor of Newsnight and then Panorama, as well as series editor for Monarchy, a three-part programme on the British royal family. He left the BBC in 1998 to become a full-time author. He should not be confused with another David Dickinson who is an antiques expert.

Death of a Chancellor (2005)
Death of a Chancellor is the fourth book in the series. It is set in 1901 in Compton Minster, somewhere in the West of England, which is preparing to celebrate a thousand years of Christian worship. But a few weeks before the main ceremonies, a high official of the cathedral, the chancellor, appears to commit suicide, but no one except the doctor and the undertaker is allowed to view the corpse. It then transpires that the chancellor was one of England's richest men.

When the dead Chancellor's sister suspects foul play, Lord Francis Powerscourt is asked to investigate. As Powerscourt explores the ancient cloisters and listens to evensong from the choir stalls, he begins to suspect that there is an incredible plot to restore the cathedral to its Roman Catholic past. And incredible is certainly the word for it! Then a senior chorister is strangled, his body found turning on the great spit in the Vicars Hall kitchen. Powerscourt himself narrowly escapes death, as does his wife, Lady Lucy, before he confounds the plotters and unmasks the murderer.

The author includes a few unnecessary history lessons, as when he describes the dissolution of the monasteries in superfluous detail, and the basic plot is far from convincing, but it is all written in an easy-to-read way that holds the interest throughout, even if (as when crowds gather to celebrate the supposed Catholic victory), you cannot believe it is really happening. The solution that Powerscourt eventually finds to restore order is to send for thirty five of the cavalry! One glimpse of them and the whole crowd just disappears! Then it all ends, believe it or not, with a mad clergyman trying to shoot it out in the Cathedral! But the cathedral background is described in an interesting, lively sort of way, and, despite the improbabilities, it still makes an enjoyable read.

Death Comes to Lynchester Close (2016)
This is the 14th book in the series, but only the 2nd to feature a cathedral background. After the Bishop of Lynchester asks Lord Francis Powerscourt for advice about the death of an aged parishioner, Powerscourt gets increasingly involved with the diocese of Lynchester where the parishioner's death has left available a property in the cathedral close which the church traditionally rents out to a suitable tenant. Four worthy candidates are nominated, one of whom is found dead in the house, poisoned by strychnine.

Powerscourt is still not a clerical detective, but once again the clerical background and particularly the characters of the Bishop, Dean, Precentor and archivist,and the distinctly clerical way in which they interview the four applicants hold the interest. The remarkable way that Powerscourt, rather than the police inspector, seems to lead the investigations is less than credible and the basic plot is not all that convincing, although the narrative still has its entertaining moments.

There is very little about the author on the web.

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The cover inadvertently suggests the basic unreality of the plot! But it still makes an entertaining read.
Another unlikely tale, but with some interesting clerical characters.
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