Christine Bennett has left the cloistered world of nuns for the profane world of New York State, where murder and madness are often linked. At a town meeting, Christine volunteers to investigate a 40-year-old murder case long since closed. Now she'll move heaven and earth to exonerate a pair of retarded savant twins, now senior citizens, of their mother's murder on Good Friday in 1950.
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Gentle, slow paced and undemanding, this has the feel of a 70s-80s publication rather than the stated 1990-ish date, mostly due to the language around disability and religious vocation.The former nun's vocation is not central to the story; in fact, the novel is not at all overtly religious but just uses a few cultural elements of Roman Catholicism in its setting. I think anyone with a love for the area around the Hudson would like some of the description, and the author manages to get some period "feel" in the sections reflecting back on the 40 year old crime. There is a slight, PG romance thread.
Although the outcome turns on one almost deus ex machina element, the story mostly rings true as an amateur sleuth procedural, if you don't get hung up on details like civilians having easy access to police files. I'd download more from this series should they be revived by Audible.
The narrator is in a couple of section a little "breathy" but otherwise seems an excellent match for the main character, whose just-turned-30 and just-out-of-convent voice comprises 95% of the novel.
So this is going to be awkward. Somehow, this book was very good almost in spite of itself! It was never a fast-action, edge of your seat sort of book. There was a budding romantic relationship between the policeman who helped Christine, who was just several weeks out of the convent, deal with the crime aspect--so a bit of a stretch there. There was a touch more religious aspect than seemed necessary, one of the key characters was not introduced until the last quarter of the book (surely a good mystery no-no), and it was sort of unbelievable how Christine just knocked on doors, called people and got whatever info she wanted about a 40 year old crime.
This book is like "The Little Engine That Could." It just keeps chugging, and does the job beautifully against all odds. I felt I should have given this book fewer stars for all the ways it felt kind of amateurish. Except that I couldn't, because I was glued to it the whole time. (Narrator could have been better, even that did'nt stop my interest).
I think the things that held this book together were all about the subject matter. A pair of now elderly male twins, who were perhaps amazing autistic savants, had been accused of their mother's murder 40 years previously, after only a cursory police investigation. Christine undertakes to find out whether they were innocent, though reader please note, not necessarily to find who was guilty instead (though that naturally goes with it, but a distinction should be made to understand some of what made the book a little unusual).
The author left me almost in tears as she depicted what the life of these brilliant young men had been, as a result of public ignorance about this condition, and that of others who are different. The two time periods in the book were the early 1950's and roughly 1990-1991 or so. She did a wonderful job of exposing the hurtful (even willful) ignorance and biased attitudes towards people with developmental delays in the two eras, and left little question that while there has been improvement, there is a way yet to go. The author's choice of handling such a sensitive subject matter was a bold, brave move. If future books will be as good as this one was, I'm in line to hear them all.
While this book was technically a mystery, I recommend reading it more because the author chose a daring topic to put at the heart of this mystery. I would like to hope that as she finds her way into more experienced writing, some of the awkwardness of the style will smooth itself out. One reads a mystery expecting a lot of cerebral challenge but in this one, there seemed to be a great challenge to the heart as well. I recommend it as a surprisingly good read.