Title: Murder at the Convent (Joe McCullen Cozy Mystery #1)
Author: Tanya R. Taylor
Published on: 30 July 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Murder at the Convent is the first book in Tanya R. Taylor’s Joe McCullen Cozy Mystery series.
On Saturday morning, eleven nuns ran in the direction of shrilling scream to find Sister Anna kneeling at the side of Mother Elizabeth Rhinehart’s lifeless body on the floor of her room. Sister Anna was clutching a bloody knife. She claimed innocence saying she only found Mother Superior lying in such a state and pulled the knife out as she wasn’t thinking straight.
The police are called in. Meanwhile, Father Joe McCullen is at his rectory with young Mark Tenney. After Mark’s mother’s death, his godmother Sue looked after him. Father Joe was a father figure to Mike. Joe and Mike are chatting when Joe receives a phone call. He learns that Mother Elizabeth was brutally murdered in her room. He visits the convent with the local archbishop.
As the duo reach the crime scene, they sit in on the interviews that the police conduct. All the sisters at the convent are questioned and it becomes clear that nobody liked Mother Elizabeth. She was rude and had problems with everything that everyone did or said.
But there is one suspect who stands out from the rest. Young Mark Tenney is accused of killing Mother Elizabeth and is arrested for the crime. Sue, his godmother, asks Father Joe to help prove Mark’s innocence. According to an anonymous phone call received at the police station, Mark and Mother Elizabeth were seen fighting a week ago – and Mark had threatened to kill her.
A religious-place setting, a Father Brown like sleuth, and a dash of humor make Murder at the Convent by Tanya R. Taylor an impressive start to a brand new cozy mystery series.
I loved the writing, the characters, the setting and the mystery. I wasn’t quite impressed with the identity of the killer though. The list of suspects is long and Father Joe spends quite some time sleuthing, trying to prove Mark’s innocence. However, the scene where he comes face-to-face with the killer – Joe does that on a whim. I wish we had more information or some pointer that made Father Joe doubt this particular person.
When Mark is arrested for the murder, Sue is inconsolable. Father Joe takes the help of Jim Cruz, a no-nonsense lawyer and parishioner. From the initial interview with the convent’s sisters, Joe learns that Mother Elizabeth was not liked by all. The sisters had made multiple complaints to the archbishop about Mother Superior’s rude behavior.
But we are also told that Mother Superior was, once upon a time, sweet and caring. Her health started worsening a decade ago and that is when she started behaving differently. But that was no excuse to rude behavior. Did she rub someone the wrong way and they killed her in a fit of rage? Young Mike Tenney was recently suspended from school for getting into a fight with a classmate. As per anonymous witness’ statement, Mike and Mother Elizabeth were seen arguing. Did Mike lose his temper and kill her? Joe does not believe that Mike can grievously harm someone.
The story gave me Father Brown vibes. I absolutely loved the sleuthing adventure – nobody can lie to a Father, can they? The list of suspects was long and it was not easy to identify the killer. The mystery behind the murder kept me guessing till the end. As I mentioned before, the only issue I had with the story were the events that led to Father Joe coming face-to-face with the killer. It came out of nowhere. Maybe a short background story on what made Joe point out the killer would have been better.
Overall, this was a really good read. I enjoyed every bit of the story and I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series. Highly recommended!