Sunday, April 2, 2017

Nun Plussed: Review

Nun Plussed (1983) is the eight book in the Sister Mary Teresa Dempsey mystery series by Monica Quill (aka Ralph McInerny). Sister Emtee (as she is more familiarly known) is one of three nuns left in Chicago's Order of Martha and Mary and was also, at one time, a history instructor at the Order's college. She has a way of getting mixed up in police affairs that involve her former students. This time it is the murder of Margaret Doyle.

Margaret was one of Sister Emtee's more troublesome students. Never satisfied and her daughter considers her someone who never grew up--permanently stuck in that age where one is sure something better is around the corner. Her dissatisfaction pushes her to divorce her husband, despite the Catholic church's view on such matters. The elderly nun is already disappointed by the divorce and is even more distressed when a wedding invitation arrives announce Margaret's upcoming marriage to Philip Chesney Cord, a member of a prominent local family. 

But the very morning that the invitation arrives sees Margaret's death, apparently at the hands of an intruder when she interrupted a search. Since no one has been living with her, it's difficult to determine if the intruder found what they were looking for--or what they might have been looking for if they didn't. The plot thickens when, after a reporter hinged her story on the impending marriage, Cord's lawyers deny that any nuptials were planned. Then Margaret's ex-husband, Gregory--who is a used book dealer and book-binder, confesses to the murder. The police are all ready to accept that their case is closed, especially when they find that Gregory has a pair of boots that match the footprints of the killer...but then one of that pesky nun Sister Emtee's former students provides proof that Gregory's boots were bought after the murder. It's up to Sister Emtee to get to the bottom of the real reason for Margaret's death.

This is a very middle-of-the-road cozy mystery. It was a quick read and fairly entertaining. The mystery was competent with a plausible culprit, if not my first choice for a satisfying solution. But none of the characters are really impressive. I find ex-nun Christine Bennett (of the Lee Harris series) and Sister Mary Helen (of the Sister Carol Anne O'Marie series) to be much more engaging religious sleuths. The constant references to Sister Emtee's head gear and the way she clings to the old ways are intrusive rather than endearing or even instructive about why she behaves the way she does as a detective. Mentioning it once for those who are just being introduced to the character would be sufficient. Also serving as a distraction was the abrupt changes in scene and characters. We would just get settled in with Sister Emtee and those in the House when suddenly we would be whisked off to the Country Club where Margaret's daughter (who found her mother's body, incidentally) worked in the golf shop where her husband was a golf pro.

A decent read, though not the best in nun-related mysteries. ★★

[Finisehd on 3/30/17]

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