An All Consuming Fire: Donna Fletcher Crow
Sometimes happens has to take a backseat until other issues are solved. Marriage and impending weddings are at the heart of this novel hoping that Felicity and Antony finally make it down the aisle. But, when Cynthia, her mother shows up, wants to take over and create a wedding fit for a Queen, things take on a different tone and words fly, tempers have to be in check and what happens will endear you to her mother even if she irritates Felicity. Antony is consumed with dealing with a television series that he is narrating based on the English Mystics and poor Felicity is dealing with directing an Epiphany pageant for Kirkthorpe’s difficult young teens and youths. But, filming takes on many strains, the director does not like Antony’s style at times, wants him to perk it up and pump it up for the audience and things happen that put a damper on everything. Filming locations are distances away from the Community of Transfiguration and lives are threatened and at stake. Antony deals with accidents on the set, an automobile accident that he is involved in but then things happen that turn deadly. Someone is killing members of the team. While lecturing on Richard Rolle and the mystics and going to different locations someone takes the life of Tara the makeup girl and Alfred the under grounds keeper but who and why? Different locations are used for the filming and the author helps us visualize the settings by vividly describing the medieval times, the gibbet, the monastery, the monks and the importance of how English mystics and what they played in their world with their love and passion for God. Taking a backset at times are the wedding preparations but Cynthia, Felicity’s mother seems to want to handle it all and has it under control much to the dismay of her daughter. Creating fur coverings for the bridesmaids, special floral arrangement, chauffeuring them around by renting a car since transportation is not readily available, many of the scenes are quite humorous and although Felicity does not always appreciate her mother’s actions she means well. Celebrations of many kinds, rehearsals for the play with recalcitrant young youths, finding cigarettes, drugs and things around the areas which need cleaning out in order to have the cast move about better, the sheep and other animals for the many religious scenes, things take on a deadly turn when Felicity finds the body of Tara and then Alfred. In order for readers to follow the cast and understand their roles she has created a list of characters at the start of the novel and who they are in relation to Felicity, Antony and the church. Finding drugs, pornography, butts and much more makes the novel veer away at times from the religious community it serves but makes it more believable to those from others and reflects on how youths in many communities act and respond to authority and rules.
Harry Forslund was the director of the show and Sylvia Mounbank, his wife the producer. Tara Gilbert created the makeup for the narrators but when she was killed things around her murder were unique and suspicious as Felicity decides to investigate but someone wants her, Antony and others out of the way because a secret regarding the land holds the key to what will unfold. Melissa Egbert is a journalist looking for a story and wants to interview Antony but her questions relates to much more as she wants to know about the accident the Fred the camera man had one that could have resulted in his death. Melissa is cunning, astute and would her questions make her prey for the killer if she unfolds too much? Tara’s death seems to be a suicide until further investigation where Cynthia and Felicity learn the truth about a soap that was placed in the hanging rope and would easily make her slip and fall hanging her by the neck. But, within this novel we meet some difficult young youths who are into drugs, smoking and possibly other activities that would make them difficult to deal with but Felicity takes them on with the help of Antony’s sister a famous actress who seems to have them under control. With the parts given out and the scenery in the works what else could go wrong?
Alfred the under groundskeeper was sent by Felicity to the quarry to fix something that need repairing so why would someone kill him too? What did he learn that he was not supposed to hear? No one is immune to this killer but as we get to know Harry he too has a shady side and his company might be in financial trouble and he branches out into something unacceptable and possibly illegal in order to keep his finances afloat. But, someone close to him has other ideas and when you meet Nick and Corin two Ordinands that are learning from Antony, you hear many different stories about Corin and his relationship to his father who resents that he wants to become a priest and voices his objections every step of the way. Land needs to go to the next of kin and farming was what he wanted Corin to do but he refuses to comply. When Felicity goes missing Antony contacts the police but since she is only missing a few hours they do not see the need to search for her not knowing that she was kidnapped, taken hostage and when let go had a head injury when she finally burst through the door of her residence falling right into Antony’s arms. The history of Richard Rolle, the mystics and the Lollards if extensive as Antony relates it to readers. Richard Rolle was born between 1290/1300 –and died late September 1349. He was as Antony relates an English hermit, mystic and religious writer. Known as Richard Rolle of Hampole or de Hampole, living near Cistercian at the climax or end of his life in a nunnery in Hampole, Yorkshire. He was one of the most widely read of English writers, whose writings and works survive in nearly four hundred English and at least 70 Continental manuscripts. He had a great following mainly in the north of England a cult you might state which was active at the time of the English Reformation. Antony continues to relate that his works were widely read in the 14th and 15 centuries and works of his survive in about 470 manuscripts. Antony also includes that he was and the reader will read and learn about Walter Hilton who criticized him. Hilton was the author of The Cloud of Unknowing sited extensively by the author in this novel. Thomas Basset wrote a defense of Rolle’s work. Basset was a hermit. Rolle also taught Lollard teachings. The Lollards were followers of John Wycliffe, the Oxford University theologian and Christian Reformed who translated the Bible into English. The Lollards had huge and profound disagreements with the Catholic Church and were critical of the Pope and the structure and hierarchy of Church authority.
Too many people are interspersed in this murder mystery as Tara is first, Alfred and then someone sees Melissa does not like that she is nosing around and her appearance resembles Felicity and the next body found is hers but why? Author Donna Fletcher Crow uses her great writing skills, research to keep the reader wondering how does this television series and the play come into why someone so many are being killed. Harry is the director and wants Antony to spice it up for viewers or his company will fold and he will have to take on another offer in Australia. But, when Felicity’s brothers arrive for her wedding and the rehearsal they eagerly use their computer skills and other connections to learn more about insurance, what other endeavors Harry and his wife are into and then you won’t believe what a simple family tree has to do with the reason so many were killed. Lies, deceptions, hate, revenge, greed, reputation, money, power and betrayals are at the heart of this complex novel filled with religious events that are sites, interesting information about the Father who was killed in the previous books, his notes found that might enlighten them as to why and how it links to the present as Felicity reminds us of the all consuming fire that killed Father Polinus and Ampgleforth Monk in a fire that took his life. Quoting form the book: Richard Rolle: thus with fire untrowed and thirling flame the soul of a lover is burned
It gladdens all things and heavenlike sparkles. As the pieces fit together the killer has his hands on Felicity but will she be next or will she finally make it to her wedding day? A mystery that will confound readers until you find out the truth behind who was behind the murders, who would benefit from it, all was deceived and who would remain to learn the truth before someone else gets burned up in An all consuming fire that will burn until all the ashes are all that is left. Watch the pageant and take a front seat as the young youths prove that when someone has faith in them they will shine to the top. What about Antony and the show? Will it ever air? Characters that are unique, true to life and interesting as Felicity, Antony and Cynthia take charge and will once again will your heart and hope for the next book in the Monastery Murders.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine