Well, I read this a while back and then the store was busy with the Bushwhacker Tour and two basements of books coming in. But I can take some time out now to review this book.
This is the first book in the Sister Joan mystery series and is the first to touch on psychological things that can go wrong in convents. The Daughters of Compassion is a made up semi-cloistered order that follows the usual pattern of prayers and work each day. The nuns take vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and compassion and are encouraged to use whatever talents they have to the glory of G*d. Each house should have no more than 15 nuns and laypersons and a nun has passed away the House in Cornwall. She had written a cryptic letter to the Reverend Mother that influences her to send Sister Joan who entered the religious life late (early 30’s), so has experience with the outside world and has a teaching diploma, which the Cornwall house has requested.
And so, Sister Joan leaves the house she as been living for 5 years with little outside contact and where she will probably never return. At the train station, she meets up with a new novice, Veronica Stirling. Once at the convent, novices live separate from the nuns as they settle into the religious life. Sister Joan meets Reverend Mother Ann right away. She also entered the religious life late in life after working with her famous archaeologist father until his death. He worked in the middle east and has helped translate the Dead Sea Scrolls. His daughter is working on a last publication of his unpublished work. The Prioress asks an odd question about whether the new novice is a virgin, has pink polish on her nails and wears lavender scent.
The house also deviates from some of the regular convent routines. A place is set for Our Lady the Blessed Virgin should she ever visit. Reverend Mother Ann feels that the Mother Goddess and the Virgin Mary are the same and should be worshipped along with Her Spouse. Very close to heresy.
And one novice has died by hanging in an “accident” and another has left the order without turning up anywhere and is being searched for by an old boyfriend with Sister Joan’s help.
This book is very sinister with strange things piling up as the story plays out to a satisfying climax. I enjoyed it and will read the rest of the series if they come into the store!