Title: Mayhem & Mass (A Sister Lou Mystery) by Olivia Matthews
Genre: Currently #623 on Amazon Best Sellers Rank in Kindle eBooks, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Mystery, Cozy, Crafts & Hobbies (and Animals) (huh?)
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: To be released November 28, 2017 – Happy Release Day!
Source: Kensington Books and NetGalley
Title and Cover: Mayhem & Mass – Simple cover includes a church in the background; not representative of the novel location setting, nor is there a cat in the book that I remember. “For a plain clothes nun, sleuthing is a habit…”
Yes, I must admit to being Protestant. My husband is the Catholic. After more than 50 years with him, I still scratch my head over some of the rituals, beads, saints (some that have been desainted), but must also admit to many practices and ceremonies that I’ve enjoyed as well. My hubby and I were extremely privileged to sing in a choir for (Saint) Pope John Paul II in 1989 at Castle Gondolfo. (You can’t deny that holy aura.) So it was when I saw the title and read the blurb that I had to request and read this book.
An LA transplant to the small community of Briar Coast in New York, the protagonist Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle has gotten very comfortable at the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Hermione of Ephesus. Sister Lou also has her nephew, Chris, close by working at the college founded by the congregation.
Sister Lou has invited an old friend, Maurice Jordan, to be a guest speaker for their Feast Day presentation. Unfortunately, the theology professor is very controversial and she is having a little problem selling him to one of his detractors. When he fails to stick to his early bird schedule and she cannot get hold of him, she knows something is very, very wrong and soon discovers his body in his hotel room.
The local detectives have not had a homicide investigation in eight years. Whether they are new to the force or new to the concept of homicide investigation, they appear inept and Sister Lou ascertains she must look into his death herself. He was an old, dear friend and she is determined that he have justice. Her nephew campaigns for her to leave the crime fighting to the local police force, but she is adamant in doing some digging of her own. In the process, she links with a local reporter, Sharelle (Shari) Henson, of The Briar Coast Telegraph. Shari is new to the area, and chomping at the bit to do some real investigative journalism–not the fluff pieces her editor-in-chief has given her. She is happy to team with Sister Lou, who she finds an enigma.
First, I did enjoy Ms. Matthews’s writing style, though we were treated more than once to the color of everyone’s eyes and her lovely and comfortable powder blue guest chairs. The reader might have benefited by more detail of the quaint little village in which they are located other than the popular Briar Coast Cafe. The townspeople are really not introduced other than the politically motivated mayor. There are other sisters who figure in the story, one almost as an additional antagonist (Sister Marianna–I had a choir director just like her), and another, Sister Carmen, her close friend and ally. The reader is introduced to the saint for whom the facility is named (quite the story in itself) and the clarification of sister and nun. Sister Lou is a sister–not a nun.
Shari and Sister Lou complement each other and one or the other saves many an interview. Shari is able to research Maurice’s closest associates and off they go to eliminate or add to their private suspect list. Chris repeatedly argues for them both to stay out of it and the obvious sparks fly between he and Shari. Chris does manage to provide some intel and has a wide range of connections through his Interim VP position at the college.
While the dialogue flowed naturally, there seemed to be redundancies; rehashing of observations and descriptions. Sister Lou is a reluctant sister sleuth while being somewhat verbally blunt and spunky. Her nephew Chris comes off as needing to man up. While Sister Lou may be his only remaining living relative and he’s understandably reluctant to support her role in a perceived dangerous investigation, he seems to have used most of his testosterone in growing to “6 feet plus.” Switching into his POV was more annoying than the other two. Shari was well fleshed and written for the sympathy vote.
The antagonist is gradually slipped mid-way into the book and soon becomes suspect. Sister Lou is very observant and begins to eliminate suspects and there are several miscues and new directions. Eventually, all characters are weeded correctly and the villain and motive exposed.
I suspect these characters will grow with the second in the series due out June 2018 (Peril & Prayer), and perhaps we’ll get a little more back story on Sister Lou. Shari makes for a strong and likable character, though why she’d have interest in Chris is beyond me and I’m not a fan of including the romance aspect in a cozy mystery. Several edit misses were noted. This is a promising debut in a potentially interesting series. Needs a little tightening up and I would have interest in reading the next installment.
I received this digital download from Kensington Books and NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review. Recommended for cozy mystery fans with a slightly religious bent.
Rosepoint Publishing: Three point five of Five Stars
The Author: (from Amazon and Goodreads Author Page) Olivia Matthews is the cozy mystery pseudonym of award-winning author Patricia Sargeant. She also writes contemporary romance under the pseudonym Regina Hart. A voracious reader, Patricia first realized she wanted to be a published author at the age of nine. She’s been inspired by writers such as Walter Mosley, Dick Francis and Tami Hoag, who’ve put ordinary people in extraordinary situations and have them find the Hero Inside. Her Sister Lou character was inspired by Catholic sisters whose courage, determination and faith have helped build communities and formed rich, lasting legacies. Raised in New York City, Patricia lives in Ohio with her husband. She loves to hear from readers. You can reach her at BooksByPatricia@yahoo.com. Visit her Olivia Matthews website, AuthorOliviaMatthews.com, and sign up for her enewsletter to learn about upcoming releases and events. ©2017 Virginia Williams