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Monday, June 11, 2018

The Shadow of Death - Jane Willan

The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan

First Paragraph(s):

Jacob Traherne, sexton at St. Anselm Church in the tiny North Wales village of Pryderi, slung his wet mop across the chancel floor and thought about rugby.  First tenor for the North Wales Rugby Choir, he hummed through his solo piece for that night's opening playoff between the Ospreys and the Dragons.  Gripping the mop in one hand, he raised his other hand like a priest blessing the congregation and belted ou the first lines to the old Welsh hymn Cwm Rhondda.

     Guide me, O my great Redeemer,
       pilgrim through this barren land.

My Thoughts:

I had a great time reading The Shadow of Death, the debut mystery by Jane Willan.  The first in the Sister Agatha series, it introduces us to the nuns at Gwenafwy Abbey and to Sister Agatha, the group's librarian who is also an aspiring mystery writer.  Filled with references to favored mystery authors and characters, a bit about the makings of the Abbey's cheese, Heavenly Gouda, some interesting up-to-date-ish nuns, a murder, and a Reverend Mother that shoots 'hoops' to relax, I definitely laughed a lot.  In between cheese festivals and drinking tea, Sister Agatha and her old friend, Father Selwyn, manage to collect clues and solve more than one problem.  I also liked the bits of philosophy scattered here and there regarding 'traditional' vs. 'contemporary' approaches to serving God and community.  I did discern the solution to the murder, but I was surprised by a few things.  And I look forward to the second book in the series, The Hour of Death, which will be published in early October. 

I shared a table with author Jane Willan and others at the Sisters in Crime Breakfast I attended at Malice Domestic 30.  She and everyone else were great breakfast companions, and I was glad to get to talk with her a bit about this book.  Jane is herself an ordained minister and serves a parish church in Massachusetts.       

Blurb:

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 postulate, and restore the good name of their cheese.

16 comments:

  1. Absolutely the type of story I need right about now to "cleanse my palate" after watching the news. It sounds like a lot of fun and having the author know her material, by way of profession, will make it believable. And set in Wales, now that's different for me!

    I look forward to picking up a copy soon, so thanks, Kay!

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    1. I bet you would like it, Rita. My library here has ordered copies of it, so I hope you'll be able to find it. The author is really delightful.

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  2. Nice to get in early with a series. I like the sound of it!

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    1. Yes, I agree, Mary. I feel the same way. I have so many series that I want to keep up with now. It's tough to do so.

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    1. Yes, that's a little different isn't it? And there are Welsh words included with explanations. I was so pleased with the humor.

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  4. Oh this sounds lovely and just the kind of book I'm in the mood for. I read lots of mysteries set in England and have read a few set in Scotland and Ireland but I don't think I've ever read any set in Wales.

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    1. I think you would like this one, Katherine. Seems like just your sort of book. Plus info about Wales.

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  5. This sounds really good. I love the setting and it's one I would definitely try!

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    1. The library has it - just saying...

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  6. This sounds so fun! I love that the main character gets her detective skills from famous book detectives!

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    1. Yes, I enjoyed running across familiar names.

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  7. I love the setting! Like Angela, I think it's awesome that the protagonist picks up her skills from famous detective books. I will have to give this one a try.

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    1. It's a good beginning to a fun series in my opinion.

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  8. This from the first sentence is what grabbed me: "sexton at St. Anselm Church". I am very interested in clerical mysteries recently. I will be looking for this, maybe later when I can get it in trade paper ed.

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    1. You might find it at your local library if you use that resource. Otherwise, yes...

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Thanks for stopping by! I am so happy to hear your thoughts and will respond as soon as I can. Happy Reading!