REQUIEM AT THE REFUGE: A SISTER MARY HELEN MYSTERY by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie
Thomas Dunne, St. Martin's Press, 2000
When a new College President pushes Sister Mary Helen out of her job at St. Francis College, Sister Mary Helen takes up another career as a volunteer at a woman's shelter. On her second day on the job, she discovers the shattered body of an ex-prostitute outside the shelter. Despite the absence of her usual sidekick, Sister Eileen, Sister Mary Helen investigates throwing clues and confusion at the San Francisco homicide detectives assigned to the case.
Sister Carol Anne O'Marie writes convincingly of the lives of both the nuns and the street people with whom her protagonist deals. The overall tone of the mystery is light, but the ambiguous relationship between the Sisters and the hookers and ex-prostitutes with whom they deal is clearly developed. O'Marie's identification of her chapters with Saint's days adds both to the authenticity of the characters and provides the reader with clues about what is coming.
The short novel shifts among a number of point-of-view characters providing both clues and red-herrings to satisfy the mystery reader. This does, however, reduce the amount of time we spend in Sister Mary Helen's head and reduce the actual sleuthing the elderly sister is able to accomplish.
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