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Even-Handed Review of Mega-Churches in Context of Enjoyable Mystery
Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2019
SILVER SPIRE by Robert Goldsborough has the world of organized religion – specifically one of the so-called “mega-churches” – as a setting. This has the potential for any number of potholes: Not only is Nero Wolfe antagonistic to religion but the world of mega-churches is an easy target to criticize.
Mega-churches (with unusually large congregations, often with slick marketing and a media component) are not a new phenomenon but have become a trend in recent years. Over the past several years numerous “television evangelists” have been embroiled in hypocrisy and scandal. And, sadly, many individual Christians and churches have done themselves no favors, essentially repelling any others who might be open to a positive faith message.
To his credit, Goldsborough avoided taking such cheap shots. While the characters are shown to have very human frailties, they are not reduced to caricatures. Even with the warts, they are shown as sincere and trying to live their faith. Often-cited real-life shortcomings – slick messaging, entertainment rather than worship, unseemly requests for money – are shown but also attempts to improve society. And even the hard-boiled Archie Goodwin, who apparently grew up in a Bible Belt type area – acknowledges a certain validity to his past.
One must keep in mind, of course, that Goldsborough is not writing a sociological treatise. He is writing a mystery in the style of the master, Rex Stout. In this he succeeds – perhaps not as brilliantly as Stout, but still provides enjoyment.