The Minister and the Murderer | Granta

  • Published: 01/11/2018
  • ISBN: 9781847089236
  • 129x20mm
  • 352 pages

The Minister and the Murderer

Stuart Kelly

In 1969, James Nelson confessed to murder, served a prison sentence, then applied to be ordained as a minster in the Scottish Church (The Kirk). The case split the church in two, and challenged the institution to consider its most basic functions, obligations and duties. Part of the problem was that James Nelson’s crime was no ordinary crime. The bible has a lot to say about murder, but not about this particular variety of murder.

Stuart Kelly uses the case of Nelson to write a compelling history of the church in Scotland, of biblical and literary accounts of forgiveness and sin. The Minister and The Murderer is a gripping piece of literary detective work weaving textual analysis with memoir and narrative non-fiction. This is a book of soul-searching and speculation, deep thinking and fine writing. It is a knotty, riveting and mind-expanding investigation of truth and faith.

The Minister and The Murderer is wickedly, reverently good. Stuart Kelly explores the fascinating case of James Nelson, a convicted murderer who sought to be ordained, with polymathic intelligence, empathy, and wit. His ingeniously prismatic and allusive approach - part history, part homily, part Biblical exegesis, and part confession - touches every field of the humanities; it is also enormous fun to read, unfolding almost like a postmodern thriller. I loved it

Eleanor Catton

A colossal achievement. This is one of the most moving and profound books I have read in a long time

Richard Holloway

Part true crime, part Theology of Despair, The Minister and the Murderer explores the hard borders of faith in the real world. A beautiful, deeply thought-provoking exploration of the history and purpose of faith

Denise Mina

The Author

Stuart Kelly is a Scottish critic and author. His works include The Book Of Lost Books: An Incomplete Guide To All The Books You’ll Never Read and Scott-Land: The Man Who Invented A Nation, which was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson. Literary editor of the Scotsman,Kelly also writes for Scotland on Sunday, the Guardian and The Times. IIn 2014 he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize.

More about the author →

Stuart Kelly on

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

The Bible As Literature, Literature As Scripture

Stuart Kelly

'Literature and literary criticism took me away from the Church as a teenager, and literature and literary criticism brought me back to it later.'

Essays & Memoir | Granta 123

Remembering Iain M Banks

Stuart Kelly

Stuart Kelly remembers Iain Banks, and assesses the influence he's had on this generation of writers.