Hayden Konig, Police Chief of Germaine, SC, and church organist of St. Barnabas Church, successfully investigates the death of Willie Boyd, the church sexton, whose body is found in the choir loft. THE ALTO WORE TWEED
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In The Alto Wore Tweed [ISBN 0-9721211-2-9], the first in his series of hilarious liturgical mysteries, Mark Schweizer presents the antics of Hayden Konig: Police Chief of the small Appalachian town of Germaine, North Carolina; Choir Director and Organist of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church; aspiring writer of murder mysteries; and multimillionaire.
Germaine, NC is in beautiful, wooded surroundings, known for fall foliage color. It is unlike any town most of us know. Pete Moss, Hayden's former college roommate, is the mayor; he also owns the major eatery in town, The Slab Cafe. Hayden, and the two other members of his police force, Nancy Parsky and Dave Vance, have their morning breakfasts/meetings at The Slab. Hayden's “official” police vehical is a blue '62 Chevy pick-up truck, purchased at a police auction with about 400,000 miles on it. He keeps a gun under the seat.
Since he feels his writing is not as successful as it might be, Hayden purchases, from Christie's, Raymond Chandler's 1939 Underwood No. 5 typewriter. We are left to judge whether this improves his writing, since excerpts from his murder mystery are interspersed throughout the main story.
Saint Barnabas is also unique. It is a small church with a traditional heritage. However, the long-time [16-year], beloved, Rector, Tony Brown, has recently retired, and has been replaced, “temporarily” with a militant feminist priest named of Loraine Ryan. Her “new” ways of conducting the liturgy, and her opinions regarding music, offend and enrage much of the congregation and, of course, its Choir Director/Organist. To show his contempt, Hayden places the latest installment of his murder mystery in the choir folders for the members to read during the Loraine's uninspired sermons. In another move unlike that or most church organists, Hayden keeps a loaded Glock 9 in the organ bench.
Megan Farthing, Hayden's significant other, is: [according to him] the town beauty; smart; and a financial wizard [she manages his investment portfolio]. He meets Megan for the first time as she speeds through town; he gives her a warning but not a ticket.
One evening just as Hayden and Megan sit down to supper, the phone rings. It's Dave. “There's a body in the choir loft.”
The body is that of Willie Boyd, sexton of St. Barnabas, who is universally disliked because of his abrasive personality, questionable hygiene habits, unwashed clothing, and his cheap, smelly cigars.
Although Hayden first thinks that Willie might have died from a simple heart attack, he changes his opinion to poisoning, because Willie vomited. Yes, says the coroner, the poison was from the yellow oleander, known to precipitate heart attacks.
Most of the charming and eccentric citizens of Germaine figure in the following pages, either as suspects, witnesses, or, temporarily, as the killer's “real” target: Malcom and Rhiza Walker, vestry members [he's the senior warden]—turns out they are both imtimately involved with Loraine; Loraine Ryan, “Herself”, because oleander juice was found on her cross, which she kisses before and after every service; Ardine McCollough, widow of the abusive Pee Dee McCollough, who is said to have murdered Pee Dee, although there is no evidence; JJ Southerland, who has been cooking church meals for years.
After many hilarious twists and turns, we find out that Ardine McCollough is the murderer. She confesses to Hayden that she killed Willie by soaking his cigar in oleander juice. Williw is the half-brother PeeDee; he found out that Ardine murdered Pee Dee [also with oleander juice] to stop the abuse. Willie forces Ardine to engage in sexual activities with him to keep him quiet.
Hayden's response is that the official reason for Willie's death was that he kissed Loraine's cross which had been soaked in oleander juice [he was infatuated with her] and was thereby poisoned.
Ardine, and the other Germaine citizens, return to their “normal” lives, except, of course, for Loraine who is removed because of her questionable sexual activi
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the humor, the fast-paced dialog, the quirky characters, and the sense of honor and justice with which all the characters were treated.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is the ending, in which Hayden tells Ardine that, although he knows that she killed her abusive husband Pee Dee with oleander juice, and also killed Willie, [who was forcing her to have sexual relations with him to keep him quiet] by soaking his cigar in oleander juice, the "official" police reports would be that Pee Dee just went away and that Willie died by oleander poison from the priest's cross.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Hayden Konig because, he is kind, smart, efficient, compassionate and, although he is a millionaire, he is unpretentious.