The Hour of Death by Jane Willan
When Sister Agatha slipped through the wrought-iron gate in front of Gwenafwy Abbey and started down the winding lane that led to the village, the sun had barely risen over the tower of Pryderi Castle. She smiled at the sound of the familiar click of the latch as the gate shut behind her. How many times over the years had she heard that gate catch and click as she headed down Church Lane on the short walk to the village? Gwenafwy Abbey, an Anglican religious order of the Church in Wales, with the mountain range of Snowdonia to its east and the Irish Sea a few miles to the north, had been her home for nearly four decades. She had grown up on a sheep farm just a stone's throw from the abbey and her earliest childhood memory was the gentle peal of the chapel bell calling the sisters to prayer.
She pulled out her mobile and glanced at it. The library meeting started at half eight, which meant she had just enough time to make the brisk ten-minute walk into the village of Pryderi and to the public library on Main Street. Pryderi, tucked into the heart of the heather-clad summits of the Clwydian Range, had sat at the bottom of a steep hill since before the Norman invasion, as though one day it had tumbled down and then reassembled itself at the bottom. In contrast, Gwenafwy Abbey sat perched at the top of the same steep incline, as though graciously keeping watch over the comings and goings of the small community.
This is the second book in Jane Willan's series that's set in Wales. I read the first book, The Shadow of Death, several months ago and liked it so much. I liked this one just as much, maybe more. And I listened to it on audio narrated by Helen Lloyd, who is Welsh herself. It was lovely to listen to her accent and also to hear her pronunciation of those Welsh locations and words that I wasn't sure of. Sister Agatha is still working on her mystery novel. She has her podcasts to listen to and she has her fictional heroes to try to emulate. She often thinks - what would Armand Gamache do? Or Inspector Barnaby or Stephanie Plum? Or Miss Marple?
The Hour of Death includes the death of a local volunteer leader - was she murdered or was it a heart attack? The nuns are also trying to deal with a sudden popularity of their cheese through online orders. There is a developer that wants to put a bunch of homes near the Abbey and change the village in what he thinks is a good way, a proposal that horrifies the nuns and Father Selwyn. Lots to talk about over pastries and tea. And the action really ramped up as the book came to a close. I thought Jane Willan did a great job with the mystery and I'll definitely look forward to more visits to Wales and Gwenafwy Abbey. So, Jane, what about #3? Working on that one?
By the way, Jane contacted me very kindly and offered me a copy of The Hour of Death. I thank her for that and, since I had already gotten the audio, I'll pass that copy on to my mystery group with high praise. Hope they love it too. Seriously, try this series. It's a fun one with lots of depth.
Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn make sleuthing a work of art. But will they paint themselves into a corner when they investigate the Village Art Society president’s death?
As Yuletide settles upon Gwenafwy Abbey, the rural Welsh convent’s peace is shattered when Tiffany Reese, president of the Village Art Society, is found dead on the floor of the parish hall. Sister Agatha, whose interests lie more with reading and writing mystery stories than with making the abbey’s world-renowned organic gouda, is not shy about inserting herself into the case. With the not-entirely-eager assistance of Father Selwyn, she begins her investigation.
Sister Agatha has no shortage of suspects to check off her naughty-or-nice list, until finally, Tiffany’s half-brother, Kendrick Geddings, emerges as the prime suspect. There never was any love lost between Tiffany and Kendrick, and of late they had been locked in a vicious battle for control of the family estate. But if Sister Agatha thinks she has the case wrapped up, she’ll have to think again.
As the days of Advent tick by, Sister Agatha is determined to crack the case by Christmas in The Hour of Death, Jane Willan’s perfectly puzzling second Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery.