Monday, February 22, 2021

The Good Samaritan in Peter Lovesey's Killing with Confetti

Bath Abbey, monument to Fletcher Partis died 1820, depicted as the Good Samaritan

I am assuming that the Good Samaritan relief mentioned in the novel Killing with Confetti is the monument to Fletcher Partis (d. 1820), who is depicted as the Good Samaritan in the relief pictured above. You can also see, as is most often the case, the priest and Levite walking away in the distance (with the animal looking at them with disgust/disappointment?).

For a few decades, as a break from my research and writing, I have tried to make time to read mystery novels. It started, actually, as part of my research into characterization theory and characterization in both ancient and modern literature that I began in the 1980s with my dissertation topic, the characterization of the Pharisees in Luke-Acts (which became my first book, Host, Guest, Enemy, and Friend). Some of that work made its way into the book; Sherlock Holmes, for example, makes an appearance.

I used other mystery novels in my work. When I taught a course in London in 1999 on Roman Britain, for example, my students read Lindsey Davis's Silver Pigs for fun, and she actually came to our class to discuss the novel (and expressed surprise that a college class would read her book). That book, set in the ancient Roman Empire led me to begin reading while in London Roman Blood by Steven Saylor, also set in ancient Rome, and I highly recommend the first five books in that series (Roma Sub Rosa).

Later, when living in Oxford (UK), I would stop by the used bookstore near our flat (in the Castle area; the bookstore is no longer there, unfortunately) to pick up old mystery paperbacks for just 3 pounds each. I of course read the entire Colin Dexter series about Detective Morse, set in Oxford as well as every one of Ian Rankin's Rebus novels (set in Edinburgh, one of my favorite cities) and P.D. James’s novels with Adam Dalgliesh.  

While there, I also read an excellent article in The Sunday Times about mystery novels set outside of the UK, so I started reading such examples as Deadline in Athens by Petros Markaris (and many others set around the world). I also started reading every novel by Henning Mankell with Kurt Wallander (Sweden).

As far as U.S. mysteries, there are again too many to name, but I never miss a work by Walter Mosley. I recommend starting with the Easy Rawlins series. 

I could mention many, many others, but needless to say not many of them incorporate the parables of Jesus. 

Last weekend, though, I read Killing with Confetti by Peter Lovesey in his Peter Diamond series. I have read a few in this series--the setting in Bath is a definite plus--but this one incorporates the parable of the Good Samaritan.

It is minor and not worth serious investigation, but I found it amusing and clever.

Many of the events occur in the Roman Baths, but an early scene is set in the Bath Abbey. Diamond is there with two of his "superiors" in the police department, Deputy Chief Constable George Brace and Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore, to whom Diamond directly reports.

After Diamond and Dallymore enter the abbey, the narrator lets readers know about Diamond's religious beliefs, in contrast to ACC Dalymore's: "Diamond's religion was rugby and real ale" (79)

Then readers find out that Brace and Dallymore are forcing Diamond to do, in his official capacity, what amounts to a personal favor for Brace. As Brace and Dallymore press their case, Dallymore "stepped close to Diamond, uncomfortably close, pinning him against a relief of the Good Samaritan" (80).

As Brace and Dallymore inform Diamond of the situation, he becomes even more uncomfortable. Brace has a problem and has not yet explained what he wants Diamond to do. And here the narrator provides readers with Diamond's interior thoughts:

. . . Diamond thought, but why tell me? This didn't bode well. Standing so close to the Good Samaritan, he was mentally with the priest and the Levite who walked by (83).

Of course, since many of his readers would not be overly familiar with the parable, Lovesey provides the explanatory "who walked by." 

Diamond is forced, however, to play the role of the Good Samaritan and, as is often the case, the result is to the chagrin of his boss(es).

It's Monday morning, though, so it's back to work.

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