"We've found a boy's body by the river - want to come take a peek?" Ben's face wore his insufferable I-know-what-you're-thinking expression. Faith struggled with her demon curiosity a moment. Ben watched her lose the fight. "Of course you do." Faith Morgan, former policewoman and vicar of Little Worthy, visits Oliver Markham's farm in the run up to Christmas. He's to be her Joseph in the church's nativity pageant. Only she discovers the house surrounded by police cars. A body has been found in the local River Itchen. Despite her best intentions, Faith is drawn into the investigation. There is a question of drugs, a distraught girlfriend, an unsavoury uncle - and, to Faith's sinking heart, a church connection. Ben, her erstwhile boyfriend, is the police inspector in charge of the case, which does nothing at all for her peace of mind. And the respectable parishioners of Little Worthy have plenty of opinions. Mostly, as it turns out, wrong.
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This story finds Vicar Faith Morgan readying herself and her parish for Christmas during the Advent season. She barely has time to sleep she is so busy arranging carol services, the annual Christmas pageant, and a toy collection drive to mention only a few of the myriad of things on her “to do” list. She sets out one day to visit her choice to play Joseph for the Christmas pageant. Upon arrival, she finds the police and the forensics team in the midst of recovering a body found on “Joseph’s” property. He is then taken in for questioning. Of course, the inspector in charge is her ex-boyfriend, Ben Shorter. As in the first book of the series, The Reluctant Detective, Faith is in almost constant contact with Ben and forced to deal with her remaining feelings for him. Ben, however, is not a Christian and spears Faith occasionally with well-placed barbs about her faith, making things more difficult for them both as they try to solve the case. The victim is a teenage boy who was found after being washed downstream. He has only two close friends, one male and one female. Could he have been murdered in a fit of jealousy? There have also been a few robberies in the area over the last few months, and Faith wonders if there is a connection between them and the murder. On top of all this, she must deal with her mother’s new signs of failing mental health. After reading the first book in the series, there were a few things I didn’t think needed to be portrayed by a vicar. Now, after reading this second book, I’m happy to report those dark marks did not make an appearance in this book. There was one questionable view of the meaning of Advent on page 81 that readers should notice, but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this second mystery. The character interactions were more in depth to help develop more of their personalities. I really enjoyed getting to know the parish family better. Faith’s incurable curiosity serves her well to help the investigation, but sometimes causes others pain. That is a part of how we live life this side of heaven though isn’t it? We sometimes think we’re helping and we have the best of intentions, but we forget to talk to God about what we’re doing first and make a mess of things. That is one thing I would like to see more of…Faith reading Scripture and believing that only God is worthy of our faith, not God and love as is uttered by Faith at one point in the story. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I hope the next book will be even better.