Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Murder in a Monastery

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

A Very Private Grave
By Donna Fletcher Crow

Think about a medieval murder mystery with monks, saints, relics and treasure. Now set in modern day England and you have a fascinating combination of history, religion and crime. In A Very Private Grave, a monk is brutally murdered upon his return from a pilgrimage to the sites where St. Cuthbert lived. A modern American woman studying at the college attached to his monastery and the priest who teaches history become the prime suspects. In order to clear their names and find the murderer, they retrace the victim’s journey.

Before his death, the victim gave his journal with cryptic notes about St. Cuthbert to Felicity, the female protagonist. She and Father Antony realize it is important, but don’t understand the message. As they travel, Antony tells Cuthbert’s story to Felicity. When they arrive at Lindisfarne, the Holy Island where Cuthbert was bishop, things start to get more interesting. Several attempts on their lives warn them that they are getting close to the mystery, but they don’t know what they know.

One of the fascinating things about this book is the intertwining of modern day monastic life and ancient history of the English church, with a mystery to complicate the story. Felicity is studying for the Anglican priesthood so she can change the ills of the world. Antony is running from something in his past. Father Dominic, the murder victim, was gentle and kind. And everyone else is a suspect. And somehow, St. Cuthbert’s life matters.

This is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a while. The plot is complicated, the characters are complex, the mystery is hidden and the setting is fascinating. I wasn’t able to finish this book before I had to post my review, but I am completely immersed in it and I can’t wait to get back to it. I wish I could send it to you when I’m done, but don’t wait to get your own copy.

Pros: Natural descriptions of monastic life, both in history and in modern times, with complex characters and a puzzling murder mystery. Historical information is cleverly interwoven into the plot.

Cons: If you don’t like history or can’t relate to religious ritual, some of it may be a bit tedious.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Very Private Grave
Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)
Donna Fletcher Crow


Donna Fletcher Crow is author of more than thirty-five novels. She has twice won first place in the Historical Fiction category from the National Association of Press Women, and has also been a finalist for "Best Inspirational Novel" from the Romance Writers of America. She is a member of The Arts Centre Group and Sisters in Crime. Find out more at


"History and mystery and murders most foul keep the pages turning ... A fascinating read." –Liz Curtis Higgs, bestelling author of Thorn in My Heart
“A Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller, a sweeping, page-turning quest served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters
“As in Glastonbury, Donna Fletcher Crow’s descriptions of the English and Scottish settings in her new mystery are drawn with real artistry. Lovers of British history and church history will be impressed by her grasp of both.”—Sally Wright, Edgar Award finalist and author of the Ben Reese Mysteries


Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic bludgeoned to death and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.

Following the cryptic clues contained in a poem the dead man had pressed upon her minutes before his death, she and Fr. Antony—who is wanted for questioning by the police—flee the monastery to seek more information about Fr. Dominic and end up in the holy island of Lindisfarne, former home of Saint Cuthbert.

Their quest leads them into a dark puzzle...and considerable danger.

If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of A Very Private Grave, go HERE.

Watch the book video:

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