Satan’s Choir by Tom Harley Campbell Review

Satan’s Choir by Tom Harley Campbell, a compellingly crafted and compulsive mystery read about an all too familiar, heart-rending topic. Read my full review.

Satan’s Choir Synopsis

John Burke Mystery #1

When the battered remains of a priest are discovered at the bottom of a lake, Dayton homicide detective John Burke is mystified. Who would murder a priest? Why were the initial inquiries abandoned so long ago when the man went missing? Burke’s search for a suspect leads him down a dark rabbit hole of intrigue and into his own mysterious past, as he investigates the case.

Cayuga Street Press (2021)

Genre(s) Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Tom Harley Campbell | Pub Date May 27, 2021 | ISBN 9781681114101 | 264 Pages

Book Review

When a teenager sneaks off with and accidentally allows his father’s treasured, collectible 1957 Chevy Bel Air coupe to roll into a local lake, what at first seems comical turns deadly serious. When the salvage company hired to recover the car sends divers eighty-feet down into the lake to attach straps to the car, the divers discover a second car submerged in the lake resting beside the Chevy. Only the second car, a 1963 Chevy Impala, contains human remains in the front seat. The Metropark police supervising the salvage operation calls in Captain John Burke, head of the Dayton Police Department Homicide/Assault squad to investigate. With the help of the crime scene unit, Burke eventually determines the remains inside the Impala belong to Raymond T. Nelson, a Catholic priest who disappeared without a trace in 1963, during the same week the JFK assassination occurred. After the county coroner determines Nelson likely died from a blow to the head inconsistent with the circumstances of the car entering the lake, Burke finds himself with a fifty-year-old murder to investigate. As he digs into Father Nelson’s background and the circumstances of his disappearance, Burke makes a startling and horrifying discovery that he believes explains why Nelson, with a fractured skull and his car, ended up at the bottom of the lake.

I read the second book in Campbell’s John Burke Mystery series, Blue Book, before reading this one. And I thoroughly enjoyed Campbell’s superb storytelling in that one. Also, reading the series books out of order posed no problem since both books work well as standalone novels. Still, I appreciated learning more of Burke’s backstory, which includes here his last months as a supervisor and detective for the Dayton Police Department before retiring. This book is just as attention-grabbing as Blue Book and offers the reader another compelling mystery tale. It was also enjoyable to revisit many of the characters I met in the first book by Campbell I read and reviewed.

In Satan’s Choir, Campbell takes an unflinching look at a topic that is sadly all too real that explains why someone might murder a Catholic priest. It’s a solid mystery tale, jam-packed with thought-provoking moral ambiguity, that will appeal to fans of both the detective mysteries and police procedural genres. Campbell has an endearing writing style that keeps the reader turning the pages. I’m already eagerly looking forward to the next John Burke adventure.

Book rating: ★★★★★

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