Thursday, April 5, 2018

ARC Review: The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan

The Shadow of Death
Author: Jane Willan
Series: A Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (April 10, 2018)

Description: A charming and clever traditional mystery debut set at a bucolic Welsh convent, The Shadow of Death introduces Sister Agatha, a mystery-loving nun who finds herself in the midst of a real-life murder case.

The sisters of Gwenafwy Abbey have cherished their contemplative life―days spent in prayer, reflection, tending the Convent’s vegetable gardens and making their award-winning organic cheese, Heavenly Gouda. Life seems perfect, except for Sister Agatha, a die-hard mystery fan who despairs of ever finding any real life inspiration for her own novel. That is, until the Abbey’s sexton is found dead under an avalanche of gouda. Despite the reservations of the local constable, Sister Agatha is convinced it’s murder and the game is afoot.

Armed only with the notes she’s scribbled during her favorite podcast, How to Write a Mystery Novel, as well as a lessons learned from crime heroes ranging from Hercule Poirot to Stephanie Plum, Sister Agatha leads the nuns of Gwenafwy Abbey (and her unwitting sidekick, Father Selwyn) as they begin a race against time to resolve the death of Jacob, save the Abbey, exonerate a beloved postulant, and restore the good name of their cheese.

My Thoughts: This is a great country mystery with engaging characters. Sister Agatha has lived at Gwenafwy Abbey since she entered as a postulant at age 19. Now over 60, she has seen changes at the Abbey. From a peak population of 100 Sisters, the abbey is down to 19 and the bishop is looking at closing the Abbey.

Sister Agnes want to write mysteries. The Abbey sent her to school and now the Abbey's librarian has a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She is in the throes of writing her own mystery when a mystery appears at the Abbey. Their young sexton Joseph Traherne has been found dead in the Abbey's aging room for their award winning Heavenly Gouda. A metal rack holding their aging cheeses fell on him. The local Constable is all set to write it off as a tragic accident but Sister Agnes isn't so sure.

She decides to investigate and recruits Father Selwyn as her unwitting assistant since all the great detectives have assistants to bounce ideas off. But Joseph's death isn't the only mystery at the Abbey. The new postulant, the first in ten years, has secrets of her own and is fleeing a murder investigation. Also, Sister Callwyn who entered the Abbey with Sister Agnes is keeping some sort of secret and showing an interest in technology that was totally new for her.

As she investigates in her village, she discovers that Joseph had a boyfriend whose ex was jealous of his new relationship. She discovers that Joseph had a rival for his position as the lead singer of his choir and the rivals helicopter mother seems willing to do anything so that her son can take the position she feels he deserves. She discovers that one of the local farmers may have a motive to discredit the abbey's cheese production in order to steel business from them. Then there is the new young deacon at the church who might have a gambling problem.

I loved the references to other mysteries and the references to the podcast that Sister Agnes listens to religiously (sorry!) for hints about writing her own mystery. This was an entertaining story with great characters and plot twisty enough to keep me guessing.

Favorite Quote:
"Just a few loose ends to tie up," Sister Agatha said. She put the notebook down. "Although I must say, I'm not bouncing back like Stephanie Plum, which is a disappointment. She figures out the bad guy, gets shot, her car blows up, and then the next thing you know, she's making out with her boyfriend. I feel more like lying down. Alone."

"Sister. Honestly." Father Selwyn shook his head.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I saw the name Agatha first, and being a mystery book my first thought was that it was an Agatha Christie book (haha). Great review! I also love references in book, and the ironic humor of people in books making reference from other literature, as if they are not books themselves XD.

    Anne @ The Reading Life


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