By Donna Fletcher Crow

Monarch Books, 2011 ($14.99)

ISBN-13: : 978-0-85721-050-0

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

In 1375, a near death experience leads a young woman named Gillian to become an anchoress. She became known as Dame Julian of Norwich, and she spent the rest of her life in walled enclosure on the church. Her mother was proud of her, but mourned her loss just the same.

Felicity Howard, an American who left her post as a school teacher to study theology at the Community of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is almost convinced she has a vocation as a nun. Her mentor urges her to visit several communities before she makes a final decision. He is well aware that Felicity has plenty of religious fervor and a strong belief system, but she is prone to jump in with both feet, and doesn't always look before she leaps.

Not long ago she was involved in solving the murder of a priest, helping to clear her friend Father Anthony from suspicion (A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE). The two ran into danger during their investigation, but also became close friends, and perhaps more. Their relationship was complicated, though, because Anthony was considering becoming an Anglican monk. If they could not be together, all the more reason for her to become a nun. She is not aware that Anthony has decided he's not cut out for the life of a monk.

Leaving the chapel, she sees that a valuable and precious icon is missing from its usual spot. She thinks perhaps it's been sent for cleaning as part of the preparations for Holy Week, but it turns out it's been stolen. Father Anthony asks for her help in finding it, but she tells him she has to test her vocation and can't get involved. To complicate matters, her mother, who was seldom part of Felicity's life, shows up with bad news and a desire to spend time with her daughter. Not knowing what else to do, she takes Mom along on the train. Father Anthony's travel plans just happen to coincide with hers. When one of their friends is murdered, probably because of the questions he's been asking about the missing icon, Felicity and her mother Cynthia join in the investigation.

As the story plays out, the three investigators encounter death and danger at a rapidly increasing rate. Intrigues both ancient and current are behind the criminal acts, and they must figure out both puzzles to bring the killer to light.

This is Book Two of Crow's Monastery Murders, and it is equally as entertaining and informative as the first, A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE. Crow combines a well-plotted mystery with an abundance of historical detail and an intriguing look at the present day Anglican Church and its rituals. Feclity and Father Anthony are a likable pair of amateur detectives, and one hopes they will have many adventures to come.

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