If you found your best friend dead in a cornfield from suspected suicide, then discovered the cause of death might not be so obvious, what would you do? In Preacher Finds a Corpse, lapsed divinity student Evan Wycliff's discovery leads straight into danger when a turkey shoot turns into a murder investigation.
But, what could a dispute over land ownership that holds two centuries of history have to do with his friend's demise? Evan uncovers a series of clues that indicates these centuries of battle are not over and that his friend likely got mixed up in the modern version of the war, complicated further by plans to turn an aging, abandoned facility into a tourist attraction.
The first thing to note about Preacher Finds a Corpse is that it comes steeped in Ozark culture. Against the backdrop of turkey shoots and rural personalities lies the efforts of a man who has not only failed at being a full-fledged preacher, but who feels he has botched being a good friend.
Among the puzzles he uncovers is the role wife Edith Taggart played in that life, the possibility of Cora's involvement with his quiet friend, and a series of convoluted relationships among small-town individuals who may have had special influences on Bob Taggart's life or death.
Each clue opens the floodgate to historical connections, small-town facts, and secrets that might be worth killing for. As Evan begins to suspect that something more than suicide has occurred, he finds himself in the crosshairs of the sheriff's department, suspected of being a thief and possibly worse, when he winds up in an ambulance, having been clobbered by an investigator who suspected him of looting the local pharmacy during a storm.
From the secret contents in a rusty tin fishing box to clues that lead Evan further into danger, Gerald Everett Jones weaves a tense thriller peppered with references to Evan's ongoing relationship to God and prayer.
When the clues boil down to a final surprise, will forgiveness be possible?
Jones does an outstanding job of crafting a murder mystery that romps through a small town's secrets and various lives. His main protagonist is realistic and believable in every step of his investigative actions and setbacks; but so are characters he interacts with; from his boss Zip to a final service which holds some big surprises.
With its roots firmly grounded in an exceptional sense of place and purpose, Jones has created a murder mystery that lingers in the mind long after events have built to an unexpected crescendo. Murder mystery fans will find it more than a cut above the ordinary.