Friday, July 24, 2015

The Body in the Convent

Image result for The religious body

Catherine Aird's works recently appeared mysteriously on the ebook library shelves. As this was soon after I finished attending the library's History of Mystery class, I am wondering if perhaps this is a happy coincidence.

Ms. Aird (whose real name is Kinn Hamilton McIntosh) is a British crime fiction writer. She was born in 1930, in the midst of the Golden Age of mysteries, and has so far published more than twenty crime novels and a few collections of short stories. 

I am reading her first effort, The Religious Body, which was published in 1966. Here she introduces the detective duo of Chief Inspector C.D. Sloan and his young assistant Constable Crosby. The book opens with Sister Mary St. Gertrude making her morning rounds and knocking on bedroom doors to waken the sisters in the Convent of St. Anselm. One nun, Sister Anne, is not in her room and is later discovered dead at the bottom of the cellar steps. Although at first it seems she died from an accidental fall, it turns out that the real cause of death was a blow from the ubiquitous 'blunt instrument'.

How the police and the nuns are going to get on together in the solution to this murder promises to be an interesting read. DCI Sloan has a sly sense of humor that his more naive constable does not often understand. The detectives also are getting assistance from Father MacAuley who seems anxious to help. Or hinder, as the case may be.

So far, I have enjoyed Ms. Aird's  lively writing. It is always a bonus when both the prose and the puzzle are entertaining.

I was thinking about other books I have read that take place in a convent. Here are a few titles I came up with:

Good Behavior by Donald Westlake - In which professional burglar John Dortmunder, in an effort to escape the police, falls through the roof of a convent and agrees to help the nuns rescue one of their own who has been kidnapped by her disapproving father. Very funny.

A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman - This story, by the author of the Mrs. Pollifax series, doesn't really take place in a convent, but it does involve nuns, a bunch of money, gangsters, and murder. I wrote about it here.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden - The story of a middle-aged professional woman who joins a contemplative order of Benedictine nuns. No crime here, but if I remember correctly it does contain a mystery. And there is plenty of insider information concerning what goes on behind the convent walls.

I find it fascinating to read about what life is like in these closed communities, murder or no. Do you have any Nun Stories that you have enjoyed and would like to recommend? 


  1. Belle, I love Catherine Aird! Thanks for reminding me about her books. I'm on a mystery spree. I've been rereading some Golden Age mysteries but I should jump forward. I can't remember which of her books i've read. Have you ever had that problem? So often that is the case with mysteries for me. But I like to reread anyway.:)

    1. Kat, I don't know how I have missed Ms. Aird's books, but I am glad I found them now. She was on one of the reading lists from the Mystery class. I love the library ebook shelves. So quick and easy to access. Saves gas! I am happy to have her collection for my Kindle. And yes, I reread mysteries all the time because I can never remember whodunnit!

  2. Belle, Have you read the Sister Agatha series by David and Aimee Thurlo? Or Sister Joan books by Veronica Black? Or Sister Teresa Dempsey books by Ralph M McInerny written as Monica Quill? See the Job Index (Clergy) at and for lists of these books by authors as well. Not sure if any of these are ebooks though. I have a Kindle but still read mostly actual books.

    1. Wow, Joyce. Great information! I am not familiar with the StopYoureKillingMe website but can see after just a brief visit that I will be spending hours wandering around it. Thanks for the tips and I will look into the Sisters Agatha, Joan and Teresa!