Skip to main content

Mystery writer # 9: Sister Carol Anne O’Marie

Title: A Novena for Murder
No. in series: 1
Year published: 1984
Availability: In print
Pages: 183.
Setting & time: San Francisco – mostly Mount St. Francis College for Women, 1980’s (but has a somewhat timeless feel)
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateurs and police detectives
Some themes: Immigration, cultism, love, blackmail

Summary: 75 year old Sister Mary Helen has been dodging retirement for several years, but now the church has decided that she deserves her rest and she has been sent to Mount St. Francis College for Women to spend her retirement at what they call the Sister’s Residence, but she knows is nothing but a convent. The former teacher expects it to be boring, but a few days after her arrival, a Professor Villanueva is found murdered in his office and suspicion falls on Leonel, the assistant cook, whose fingerprints are found on the murder weapon. Sister Mary Helen is convinced of his innocence, and starts an investigation of her own. When she finds the body of Joanna, Villanueva’s secretary’s sister, in the college chapel, she is convinced the murders are in some way connected to the Portuguese immigrants Villanueva has been helping, since both victims and the prime suspect are Portuguese. The disappearance of Joanna’s M.A. thesis, which was about that subject, convinces the police that Mary Helen’s theory is correct, and since she has shown herself capable of ferreting out information the police couldn’t find, they allow her to assist in the investigation.

Review: Reviews of this novel and others by the author often mention G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, possibly because the sleuths are both Catholics in service of the church, but I find they have little else in common. Mary Helen does not seem to have Father Brown’s almost supernatural ability to notice tiny details – her forte is curiosity - and there is none of the dark fantasy element in this story that one finds in Chesterton.

For a first book it is very well written, suspenseful and funny, and fortunately Sister Carol has avoided making the story overly religious while still including details about nun’s lives that are all the more interesting for knowing she is writing from experience. Sister Mary Helen does not take a particularly religious approach to her sleuthing, which is good. I venture to say she has more in common with Miss Marple and other educator sleuths than she has with Father Brown, whose approach to crime solving is often spiritual.

Rating: A funny and entertaining story about a sleuthing nun. Will definitely be looking for more. 4 stars.

About the author


Anonymous said…
thanks :P
greetz from holland.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

First book of 2020: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (reading notes)

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I loathe movie tie-in book covers because I feel they are (often) trying to tell me how I should see the characters in the book. The edition of Deborah Moggach's These Foolish Things that I read takes it one step further and changes the title of the book into the title of the film version as well as having photos of the ensemble cast on the cover. Fortunately it has been a long while since I watched the movie, so I couldn't even remember who played whom in the film, and I think it's perfectly understandable to try to cash in on the movie's success by rebranding the book. Even with a few years between watching the film and reading the book, I could see that the story had been altered, e.g. by having the Marigold Hotel's owner/manager be single and having a romance, instead being of unhappily married to an (understandably, I thought) shrewish wife. It also conflates Sonny, the wheeler dealer behind the retireme