By Veronica Black
A puzzling letter sent by an elderly, dying nun in a Cornish convent sets this mystery in motion.
Sister Joan, a nun for the past five years at a London convent of the Order of the Daughters of Compassion, is asked by her superior, the Reverend Mother Agnes, to move to the Cornish convent where Mother Frances, 91, lived until her recent death. Mother Agnes trained under Mother Frances and knew her well.
Such a move is needed because the London convent has more than the allowed number of nuns and lay sisters and the Cornish convent has fewer.
But Mother Agnes’ choice of Sister Joan to send indicates the depth of her concerns about Mother Frances’ letter. Amid the letter’s misstatements and nonsense, several things are clear to Mother Agnes: Mother Frances was deeply disturbed by something in the convent and uncomfortable discussing it with her prioress. The vow of silence that all the order’s sisters take prevents a sister from directly discussing anything she might have observed in her convent.
Sister Joan is a good choice. She knows the rules and disciplines. Having entered the convent in her 30s, she has maturity and world experience that most of the other sisters don’t. She’s observant, educated and has an independence of spirit that doesn’t always serve her well in religious life. Mother Agnes’ last instruction to her before she leaves is to let her own judgment be her guide once she gets to Cornwall.
What Sister Joan finds is a convent that on the surface appears typical, if slightly relaxed, in discipline. But she soon discovers things that don’t make sense: a prioress who wears nail polish; preparations to participate in a local Solstice fair; the death of a newly professed sister with overtones of suicide; the disappearance of a novice; elderly sisters who grumble about the prioress’s interest in a “fifth gospel” and an anxious infirmarian.
This is no cozy mystery. Sister Joan’s discoveries start like small pebbles rolling down a hill and soon avalanche into a terrifying scenario. The rising suspense make this a true page-turner with a stunning ending. A highly satisfying read.
The other books in the Sister Joan series are:
- A VOW OF CHASTITY (1991)
- A VOW OF SANCTITY (1993)
- A VOW OF DEVOTION (1994)
- A VOW OF PENANCE (1994)
- A VOW OF FIDELITY (1995)
- A VOW OF OBEDIENCE (1995)
- A VOW OF ADORATION (1996)
- A VOW OF POVERTY (1996)
- A VOW OF COMPASSION (1998)
- A VOW OF EVIL (2004)
About the Author: Veronica Black (Maureen Peters) (1935 – 2006)
Veronica Black was the pseudonym of historical novelist Maureen Peters. She also wrote under the names of Catherine Darby, Belinda Gray, Levanah Lloyd, Judith Rothman, Elizabeth Law and Sharon Whitby. Her more than 100 novels spanned genres.
Under her own name, Maureen Peters, she was mostly known for writing biographical fiction featuring royalty, mainly set during the War of the Roses and Tudor periods. She was equally adept at writing the romances, family sagas, gothics and mysteries. The first book she wrote under the name of Veronica Black was DANGEROUS INHERITANCE in 1969. She launched her Sister Joan series in 1990.
Born in Caernarvon, Wales, she earned a bachelor’s degree and a diploma of education from the University College of North Wales. She taught disabled children before taking up writing. married and divorced twice and had a son and two daughters.
She is also known as a Bronte scholar.