"Another case for the Reverend Mother in historical Cork"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted July 7, 2018
Mystery Historical | Mystery Woman Sleuth
Fifth in the Reverend
Mother historical mystery series
set in County Cork of the early twentieth century, this
tension-loaded tale examines the Irish Civil War. Men and
women were caught up in fighting because some resented the
terms of the Treaty recently signed with Britain to create
the Irish Free State. A few of the novice nuns at the Cork
city convent are being used to smuggle messages between
those rebelling against the new Irish government. DEATH OF
A NOVICE may be a consequence.
One of the locations visited is the Army barracks of Spike
Island, which is now a top tourist attraction! Eileen Mac
Sweeney gets taken on a tour so we see it through her eyes,
tunnels, ammo store and all. Reverend Mother Aquinas is our
more usual companion and we find her busy checking the
henhouse -- and discovering the body of a recently joined
novice who kept the convent books. Clearly being a nun is a
more perilous occupation than I realized.
The late Sister Gertrude had worked as an accountant in
Ford's motor factory in Cork, but actually thought the
convent held better prospects for advancement, which tells
us a lot about women in business in those days. As the
novice was only in her early twenties, the Reverend Mother
distrusts the doctor's verdict of liver failure. She starts
looking into the nun's background and her communications
with the other novices.
I enjoyed the look at daily life, the casual dropping of
clues, and distinct personalities we meet. In the background
we get Reverend Mother's musings on the political turmoil
which has come all too close. The case is a difficult one
with twists and turns before reaching an outcome that
explains everything. Readers interested in the historical
aspect will certainly get value from this visit to Cork and
those who like to follow the eventful life of the Reverend
Mother can be pleased to grab this latest installment. Cora
Harrison once again shows the lives of ordinary women in
the past, with her compelling mystery DEATH OF A NOVICE.
The sudden death of a young novice nun raises a series of
puzzling questions in the latest Reverend Mother historical
The Reverend Mother is delighted with her new entrant to the
convent. Young Sister Gertrude is well-educated, has worked
for an accountant and has an appealing sense of humour. But
one autumn morning, Sister Gertrude is found dead inside a
small wooden shed, just beside the river. Surely a young nun
could not die from alcohol poisoning?
But when the Reverend Mother delves more deeply into Sister
Gertrude’s background, she finds some puzzling anomalies.
Why did the young nun not delay her entry to the convent
until after her sister’s wedding? Is it a coincidence that
her father died of a similar illness not long before? And
could there be a link between Sister Gertrude’s death and
the gunpowder explosion on Spike Island? The Reverend Mother
must find the answers to these questions if she is to
safeguard her community from suspicions of murder.
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