A Novena For Murder, by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie

>> Monday, November 24, 2003

On Friday I finished A Novena For Murder, by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie. This is the first book in the Sister Mary Helen series, one I usually enjoy.

Heaven knows nobody expected a homicide at Mount St. Francis College for Women in San Francisco. Sister Mary Helen, at seventy-five, had resisted retiring there for fear she'd find only prayer, peace, and a little pinochle. But she'd barely arrived when she was greeted by an earthquake, a hysterical secretary, and a fatally bludgeoned history professor.

The police professionals, homicide inspectors Kate Murphy and Dennis Gallagher, promptly made a very human error: They arrested an innocent. As one sister invoked divine aid with a novena to St. Dismas, patron saint of murderers, Sister Mary Helen turned her own talent for investigation into a hunt for the guilty ... and found that nothing is sacred when it comes to catching a killer with a habit for murder.
The book works as an introduction to most of the players in the series, Sister Mary Helen herself, the other nuns, the police detectives, etc, but the mystery itself was almost a complete loss. A C+.

I had 2 main problems with the mystery.The first was that the whole situation didn't ring true at all. It's not much of a spoiler to mention that what's at front centre is kind of immigrant-smuggling ring. Well, not exactly smuggling, but something like that. What surprised me was that the immigrants here were Portuguese. One expects this kind of plot with immigrants from a third-world country, desperate not to be deported because they'd either starve or be persecuted by a dictatorship at home. What would be so awful about having to go back to Portugal??

Yes, this book was written 20 years ago, so I suppose the circumstances might have been different then, but still! I don't know, maybe it's because I myself am from a country where people would love to be able to go work in a place like Portugal!

The second problem was that all this didn't fit in with the cozy atmosphere. These books work much better with another kind of mystery, a more "domestic" crime, if you will. I felt poor Mary Helen was very much out of her league, here!

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