Death of a Novice

Written by Cora Harrison
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Young Sister Gertrude is a welcome addition to the convent; she’s quick with numbers and funny. But when she is found dead by the Reverend Mother one morning, Gertrude’s death becomes an internal issue. Did she die from alcohol poisoning or something else? Who would want her dead?

As the Reverend Mother starts putting together the pieces, they are puzzling and disturbing. Why did Gertrude delay her entry into the convent until after her sister’s marriage? When the Reverend Mother discovers that her father died of a similar illness shortly before Gertrude’s death, her suspicions become aroused. Was there a romantic relationship between Gertrude’s brother-in-law, overly upset by Gertrude’s death, and Gertrude? Was her sister involved in removing Gertrude from the triangle?

But perhaps more troubling to the Reverend Mother is the possibility that two other young nuns, involved in what appears to be an Irish Republican group, are somehow involved in Gertrude’s death. They certainly had access to poison and could mask it. Everyone in the convent knew about Gertrude’s sweet tooth, and the two nuns had all the access they would have needed to rid themselves of a potential informant.

Replete with fascinating details about the Republican underbelly of 1920s Cork, this installment of the Reverend Mother Mysteries is one of my favorites. Mother Aquinas is at her most resolved, most focused and most nervy, confronting a dangerous Republican enemy. I enjoyed it immensely, and it’s a great summer read!