” ‘Eileen,’ Mary Helen said bluntly, ‘every murderer is someone somebody knows.'”
“A Novena for Murder: A Sister Mary Helen Mystery” by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie”
In my train station here in the Chicago suburbs is one of the greatest things ever: the Book Cart. Passengers on the BNSF line can leave books, borrow books, take books, whatever they may please, and I’ve been taking advantage of it by leaving endless copies of Bowlful of Bunnies there for some soft guerrilla marketing (I am pleased to note that they are always gone the next week!). An interesting choice of books come through. Some of them are your typical bodice-ripping romance, and some of the same sci-fi books have been on the cart for months, but, every so often, something else really interesting shows up. I remember being delighted when I saw a copy of one of my personal favorites, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie show up and disappear. But nothing delighted me as much as when I came across my first Sister Mary Helen Mystery on that book cart.
Nuns solving murder mysteries. How could I say no?
Of course, I didn’t expect A Novena for Murder to be great literature, and it wasn’t, but it was a lot of fun and a really quick, cool read. The characters are handled fairly deftly and with a bit more depth and worldliness than I expected, and I greatly enjoyed these old nuns and their quiet university shaken up by a series of deaths centered around a Portuguese professor. The plot was a little predictable and easy to figure out, but I found myself so charmed by Sister Mary Helen and the other characters that I didn’t much mind. There are a few more books of the series (one of which I’ve also managed to snag from the book cart), so I’m excited to read more about them.
One thing I also liked about the book is that it’s a little dated; I believe this one was published in 1984, the same year I was born, making it as old as I am, and the historian in me loves reading older books to see how they stand the test of time. A Novena for Murder does fairly well, though a few things seem delightfully a part of a certain time and age, which I also like. It’s a really cute book, which I assume is part of a really cute series, so it was definitely a nifty little gem to uncover.
Books read: 6/100.