Hayden Konig, Police Chief of Germaine, NC, and Organist and Choir Director of Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, solves the 1937 murder of Lester Gifford, whose body is stuffed under the altar and has not decomposed for 70 years. In The Tenor Wore Tapshoes [ISBN 0-972-1211-4-5], Mark Schweizer once again presents Hayden Konig, a huge fan of Raymond Chandler -- such a huge fan that he purchases, online, Chandler's 1939 Underwood Number 5 Typewriter. As he types late at night, Hayden feels Chandler's presence in the room with him. He thinks that the typewriter improves his writing of murder mysteries, although others do not agree. According to the Associated Press, while “…Chandler's writing is inventive, witty and carries the crime story to levels of artistry that have rarely been matched…” Hayden's efforts are so “…awful…as to garner an honorable mention in the Bulwer-Lytton competition, a national literary competition to come up with the worst opening line of a novel since ‘It was a dark and stormy night.'”
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In addition to being an aspiring mystery writer and a multi-millionaire, Hayden is Police Chief of Germaine, NC, Organist/Choir Director of Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church and the significant other of Meg Farthing, the town beauty who manages his investments. Everyone in town thinks that Hayden should propose to Meg, but he has cold feet.
The entire police force [Hayden, Nancy Parsky and Dave Vance] continues its tradition of having its breakfast meetings at the Slab Café, owned by Pete Moss, the mayor of Germaine and Hayden's former college roommate. One morning, they are eating, as part of their huge breakfast, cinnamon rolls. Dave is sure his roll looks just like the Blessed Virgin Mary. They dub the roll “The Immaculate Confection” and Pete puts in on display.
A new person in Germaine is Rob Brannon the fourth, who has come “…like a whirlwind…” His great-grandfather was a founding member of Saint Barnabas; the name is on at least three of the stained glass window memorials. He's a lawyer [actually a medical malpractice litigator] who has been practicing in Charlotte, and has just moved back to Germaine.
One day, Marilyn Forbis, the church secretary, calls the police station saying that Hayden and Nancy better come to the church right away! Billy Hixon, the Junior Warden, has brought in a contraption called a “man-lift” so that they can reach the light bulbs, which need changing. [Billy is also in charge of the maintenance of the church and the lawn-care.] They realize that, to get the “man-lift” into place, they need to move the altar. While moving the very heavy altar, they drop it. The back panel falls off, revealing the body of a man -- who just happens to be dead -- murdered.
The man, who is wearing a gray suit and tie, weighs about 130 pounds, has brownish hair, pink cheeks and loose limbs. He is sitting up with his hands and arms clasped around his knees. A pair of glasses sits crookedly on his nose. His name is Lester Gifford. His driver's license is dated 1936, his birthdate is June 12, 1892, and he's been dead for about 70 years.
Also, he smells of roses.
Next to Lester, inside the altar, is a brown accordion folder filled with official documents. They give the documents to Rob Brannon to read; since he is a lawyer, they feel he has the expertise to review them.
As in Schweizer's other Hayden Konig books, we are treated to a plethora of amusing religious and secular events: Brother Hogmany MacTavish's tent meetings featuring Binny Hen, the Scripture Chicken; The Ceremony of Revirgination; the Puppet Moment at St. Barnabus ; and The Iron Mike Men's Retreat.
We are also exposed to several crimes, major and minor: the theft of the Immaculate Confection; the shooting out of Gwen Jackson's front windows; the theft and consumption of the scripture chicken; the spray painting of Davis Boothe's car with anti-gay slurs; placement of a dead sheep on Beverly Greene's lawn; burning of a cross on Joe Perry's [one of the few blacks in town] lawn; the notification, to Fr. Tony, using Hayden's cell phone, that his son is dead [not true]; and, finally, the murder of Randall Stamps, the church accountant, using a starving pit bull who was smuggled into Randall's house.
People in Germaine think that Hayden has committed these crimes. More and more people think that he is seriously unbalanced, both because they feel he is “channeling” the ghost of Raymond Chandler and because the choice of victims is related to Lesbia Scott's All Saints' Day hymn, “We Sing the Song of the Saints of God” – a hymn that is not well known among most churchgoers, but is well known to directors of music.
After many twists and turns we, finally, find out that:
- Lester was murdered because of financial hanky-panky. His body smells like roses – i.e., has not decomposed - because the altar is radioactive.
- Rob Brannon is responsible for all the crimes. There are bonds in the leather portfolio which he tries to steal, but is foiled by Hayden. St. Barnabas eventually gets a windfall of 16 million dollars.
- Even though Hayden proposes to Meg…
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked this story because it was imaginative, well written, humorous, fast paced, and readable.
Best scene in story:
In my favorite scene, Hayden has just finished his latest “masterpiece.” The ghost of Raymond Chandler chuckles and says to him “Your plot creaks like a broken shutter in an October wind. Great stuff.” Then he pulls down the brim of his hat, puffs once on his pipe, and disappears in a swirl of odorless smoke.
Opinion about the main character:
What I like most about Hayden Konig is that he is clever, compassionate, funny, and "on top of things."