Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Death at the Cafe (Reverend Annabelle Dixon #1), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, October 2015

This is a prequel, written after some of Reverend Annabelle Dixon's later adventures, but taking place at the start of her career, during her first assignment at a church in London. Annabelle is always likeable; so is her friend, Sister Mary. The stories are fun.

Nevertheless, I'm growing frustrated.

Annabelle is doing unexpectedly well in her first assignment, in a rather rough, inner city parish. Her friend, Catholic nun Sister Mary, is home briefly from her assignment in Africa--in London to raise money for the hospital she works at as a nurse. They arrange to meet at a café, but Annabelle arrives to find a commotion, and a young woman lying dead, practically at Sister Mary's feet. Mary had intended to meet with another woman, not this one, before meeting Annabelle. The police are called, Sister Mary gives them the limited information she has, and the friends leave.

Shortly after, the often scatterbrained Mary realizes she has another piece of evidence, the note the dead woman had handed her just before collapsing at her feet. Naturally, they, or rather Annabelle, decide to call the phone number and talk to Theresa, whom the note warns is in danger.

Theresa turns out to be the older woman Mary was supposed to meet, in hopes of a sizable donation to her hospital. They go to her home, which is lovely and filled with antiques. They're having a pleasant visit, when Theresa suddenly also falls dead, very similar to the way the younger woman at the café did.

For some reason, Detective Inspector Cutcliffe doesn't arrest them both on the spot.

Naturally, they continue to investigate.
Obviously, they solve the case, after some quite alarming experiences.

And it's at this point that I get really frustrated.

Beware possible spoilers. I am seriously not happy.

A couple of weeks ago, I read Fireworks in France, the latest Reverend Annabelle story. In it, in a tiny village in France, with a total "professional" religious community of fifteen--thirteen nuns and two priests--six are involved in varying degrees of impropriety. The pastor of the church and the mother superior of the convent are having an affair. One of the nuns is only there to prove her parents, a priest and a nun, were evil hypocrites, and is a really nasty person herself. Sister Mary and the other priest have realized they might be more attracted to each other than to their vocations--which in a different surrounding story would be, hey, this happens, many enter religious life too young to really know what they're committing to, and it could be a sweet story. The sixth? Another of the nuns is the actual killer, of course.

When I read it, I said, improbable, but think of the death rate in Cabot Cove. (And I am probably hopelessly dating myself with that reference. But then I read this one, and yes, the killer is a prominent Catholic bishop. Oh, and a longstanding crook.

And now I'm thinking, an English writer, now a US resident, possibly citizen for all I know, but English, is finding a lot of easy villains in a religion that is historically unpopular in the UK, and still often viewed and talked of in very stereotypical ways. Sure, Mary is altogether a good person, but one can't help but suspect at this point that "oh, she's not like the rest of them!"

If I'd had an actual paperback copy of the book, it would have hit the wall at high speed.

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