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The Religious Body by Catherine Aird

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The Religious Body

by Catherine Aird


When I’m not in the mood for a romance, I need a cosy mystery, especially an old school murder mystery. Murder mysteries set in post-WW2 Britain – particularly the variety featuring small villages? Yes, please! They tend to lean towards ‘cosy’ on the ‘cosy’ to ‘hard-boiled’ spectrum, and there is a glorious escape from modern technology and its baggage.

If you, too, enjoy this type of story, may I propose Catherine Aird’s book The Religious Body. It was published in 1966 and, to my delight, is the first in a series of sixteen books featuring our main character, Inspector Sloan. He is fastidious with a wry sense of the absurdity and tragedy of human doings. He’s a great lead, but the real star of this show is the plot.

Sister Anne is found dead at the bottom of the cellar stairs at the Convent of St Anselm. The nature of her injuries (a supremely nasty blow to the head) suggests that this was a staged crime scene rather than a case of tumbling down the stairs. As the inspector and his detective constable start digging, it turns out that there are rather a lot of people who wanted to kill this nun. I genuinely could not tell who the killer was, but when it was revealed it left me with a sense of satisfaction as all the clues held together beautifully.

This book hits that glorious sweet spot where it is immediate and cosy in scope, but rich in emotion without becoming overwrought. There is gentle satire too. The narrator’s comments on Inspector Leeyes’ fervour for extra classes in logic, etc. and the impact it has on the inspector’s choice of words… *chef’s kiss* so good!

When I needed a good, steady book, The Religious Body provided. It didn’t leave my heart thumping, but it held my attention with ease until I finished it. It’s a solid dependable reading partner that didn’t let me down. I’ve only read the first in this series as I’m struggling to get my hands on the next installments in the series. My book budget = whatever the library has available!

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