Not so quiet

Quiet as a nun is the first in Antonia Fraser's Jemima Shore mystery series. TV investigator, Jemima Shore, receives a very personal call to investigate when she is contacted by Mother Ancilla, the head of a convent and convent school (Jemima is an alumna), part of the weirdly named Order of the Ivory Tower. Shore soon realises that the convent is a very unquiet place, with all sorts of allegations being made, but with more murder and kidnapping, Jemima soon realises that this is going to be a much more dangerous case than she had anticipated.

I'm not quite sure what I make of the Jemima Shore series. I read A splash of red (third in the series) years ago, and thought it was excellent. Well up to P.D. James' standards, a real author of the Golden Age of Detective school. Then I read Tartan Tragedy (2nd in the series) and it was a huge disappointment - all dodgy dogs and swirling kilts. Quiet as a nun comes somewhere in the middle.

There's a huge amount to admire here - a bizarre unnatural death, a closed community, accusations flying everywhere, a dash of humour, some good characterisation (Sisters Agnes, Liz and Boniface were especial favourites), and some clever working out of the central mystery; but there's also a fair dollop of daftness, not least in the fate of the murderer and their accomplice (it unexpectedly made me laugh out loud - that may or may not have been intended by the author). Despite the daftness though, this was an enjoyable read. I don't think it's great crime fiction, but to while away a Sunday morning there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.


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