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A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Last Rites: Mysteries Featuring Catholic Detectives

For some reason there a lot of Catholic detectives on the mystery shelves. I'm sure there are amateur detectives from other faiths (Rabbi Small, for instance), but Catholic priests and nuns seem to form their own sub-genre. Here are a few examples:
  • Father Brown - The greatest of all ecclesial sleuths, G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown belongs in the ranks of the great detectives with Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple. Chesterton's stories are witty and clever, and very satisfying. All of his stories are collected in The Complete Father Brown.
  • Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters' medieval monk Brother Cadfael is a former soldier who now tends the garden at Shrewsbury Abbey--when he's not investigating mysterious deaths. I always recommend Brother Cadfael to fans of fantasy books who want to try their first mystery but don't know where to begin. Cadfael's stories begin with A Morbid Taste for Bones. Also see the great tv series starring Derek Jacobi.
  • Father Dowling - Don't judge this priest by the tv series. Ralph McInerny's Fr. Dowling is a complex character written by an engaging storyteller. Highly recommended. Though most of the early Father Dowling mysteries are out of print, newer titles are still available, such as 2005's Blood Ties.
  • Sister Mary Helen - I have not had a chance to read any of Sister Carol Ann O'Marie's mysteries featuring amateur detective Sister Mary Helen, but my wife loves this series, and that's saying something. My wife doesn't read very often, but she went through all of the books in the series and really enjoyed them. I love the titles: Novena for Murder, Advent of Dying, The Corporal Works of Murder.
Other ecclesial sleuths include the 14th century clerk Brother Athelstan, and the contemporary Jesuit priests Father Mark Townsend, and Father John O'Malley. Have I left anyone out? Let me know by leaving a comment.

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posted by Nick Senger at 5:36 AM

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