And Then I Read: SEPTIMUS AND THE MINSTER GHOST by Stephen Chance (Philip Turner)


Philip Turner was an author of a fine series of novels written for children beginning with “Colonel Sheperton’s Clock,” reviewed in the link. Under the pen name Stephen Chance he also wrote four mysteries about country parson Septimus Treloar, formerly a Chief Inspector with Britain’s Criminal Investigation Department. These were also aimed at young adults, and are not actual murder mysteries. Most include supernatural elements, real or feigned, and as Turner was in the clergy himself, they’re full of realistic details about that aspect of the main character’s life. This was the only one I hadn’t read yet, all the Septimus books are now available from Faber Finds, the print-on-demand division of British publisher Faber and Faber, and now easy to find online.

This story takes place not in Septimus’s small country parish but in a larger neighboring town on the coast dominated by a massive minster (large church) which includes a lighthouse. A fanciful idea, but one the author has thought out in great detail, making the book all the more fun to read. A ghost has been seen late at night in the minster, or at least lights have been seen, and music played loudly on the organ, though no sign of a human player has been spotted by witnesses to the events, beginning with the Dean’s son Alistair. Septimus is called in by the Dean to investigate, and all kinds of fascinating architectural nooks and crannies in the minster and the town around it, not to mention a large cast of eccentric and entertaining characters, make a great setting for this novel. There are some hair-raising ghostly hauntings that seem to be the real thing, but Septimus is not convinced, and he soon sets about trying to trick and trap whoever is behind the supernatural happenings. There are a number of possible suspects, he soon finds, and plenty of danger for himself as well. And church officials are on his back to get some results once the press finds out about the hauntings.

Highly recommended, as are the entire works of Stephen Chance (and Philip Turner).

Septimus and the Minster Ghost by Stephen Chance

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