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Sister Mary Helen Books In Order

Publication Order of Sister Mary Helen Books

A Novena for Murder (1984) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Advent of Dying (1986) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Missing Madonna (1988) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Murder in Ordinary Time (1991) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Murder Makes a Pilgrimage (1993) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Death Goes on Retreat (1995) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Death of an Angel (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Death Takes Up a Collection (1998) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Requiem at the Refuge (2000) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Corporal Works of Murder (2003) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Murder at the Monks' Table (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Sister Mary Helen is a series of mystery books written by an American author of religion & spirituality and mystery & thriller books Carol Anne O’Marie. O’Marie wrote eleven books featuring a heroine named Sister Mary Helen, an elderly nun who has a knack and nose for solving crimes. O’Marie began Sister Mary Helen series in 1984 when Novena for Murder the first book in the series was published. The series lasted eleven books concluding in 2006 with Murder at the Monks’ Table.

The books are based in St. Francis women’s college in San Francisco where the adventurous and smart sister Mary Helen recently moved to teach history. She’s in every bit like sweet old Miss Marple – always coming across dead bodies, and snooping around to find those the killers. Moreover, it seems the detectives, her friend Kate and even her partner Dennis, can’t entirely solve cases without her assistance on the side.

Novena for Murder

In the first book, Novena for Murder, Sister Mary Helen has barely arrived in St. Francisco women’s college when a hysterical secretary and an earthquake greet her. Amid the rambles, a history professor is knocked dead in the head with a statue while in his apartment. It is not apparent if a freak accident caused the death of the professor or if he was murdered. Another then another soon follows the professor’s murder. The events shake up Sister Mary Helen who had refused retiring to San Francisco for fear she would not find peace, prayer, and pinochle.

An investigation ensues, and San Francisco homicide inspector Kate Murphy and her partner, Dennis Gallaher comes in to solve the murder. One of the nuns begins a novena to St. Dismas, “the Good Thief.” The sister predicts the saint would reveal the murderer within nine days. True to her words, the detectives arrest a man suspected to have been involved in the murder. Sister Mary Helen is convinced the police arrested an innocent man and can’t keep her reasonably intelligent nose out of the case.

With the intent of bringing justice to the people affected by the murder, Sister Mary Helen sets out to find the real killer. She gets involved because she cares. She cares the most about the folks who are hurt physically and emotionally by the murder in their families and the community. She is also more concerned about the murderers and often prays for them.

The authors add a brisk pace to a novel that delights the reader with its sense of humor, its ability to make the reader care about the characters and its clues for those who wish to match with the Sister. The reader also enjoys seeing inside the convent. Even as a non-Catholic, it is easy to appreciate Helen’s compassion, expressions of faith and her Godly life.

Advent of dying

In the advent of dying, the good sister has vowed to finally stop reading Mysteries stories for Advent, which she has hidden in her prayer book — which she always has with her and is always learning. Her secretary Suzanne invites her and several other nuns to Square’s Sea Wench Bar to hear her belt out the blues. The next morning, Sister Mary Helen goes to Suzanne’s apartment to speak to her, and she is horrified to find her dead with a silver letter open protruding from her upper body and her house is in total disarray.

Feeling culpable for not listening to Suzanne, Sister Mary Helen and her cohort sister Eileen together with their team of close nuns decide to help San Francisco detective Kate and her long time partner, Dennis Gallaher finally solve Suzanne’s murder. As they investigate and dive in deeper to the truth, their good intentions soon lead them from righteousness to one of the deadliest secrets of the heart. Sister Mary Helen is amazed by the well of secrets she finds out about Suzanne, and she barely misses being murdered when she finally confronts the killer.

The Missing Madonna

The Missing Madonna is the 3rd book in the Sister Mary Helen Mystery series. Sister Eileen and Sister Mary Helen and have joined the Older Women’s League (OWLs). The sisters attend an OWL convention in New York where Sister Mary Helen meets up with an old friend Erma Duran. When Erma disappears on their return to San Francisco, the sisters embark on another mystery-solving adventure.

At first, Helen and her team of “private investigators” can’t find any evidence, but after some persistence investigation, they unravel a lot of little things which don’t add up. The police believe Erma simply ghosted the group, but Sister Mary Helen feels a Higher Authority pushing her to investigate — shrewd and fearless Sister is as efficient as she is endearing.

The sisters find a cryptic clue to a Byzantine Madonna and a gold medal entangled in Erma’s bedsprings. By the time Police detectives, Kate Murphy and her partner Dennis Gallaher join the hunt; the two clues have deepened the mystery and paved the way to the sister’s hellish encounter with sudden death.

Overall, the books in Sister Mary Helen series are not horrors that give you nightmares days or even weeks after reading. The characters are well-developed, and the language is realistic. Mary Helen is a friend to those affected by murder, and she recognizes that not everyone believes as she does and hence as she questions people during her investigations she is tolerant, not condemning. That’s why people open up to her and give up information they wouldn’t tell the detectives.

The series does offer the constant stimulation and suspense of a thriller, as the author gives the reader a careful planting of fair-play clues to use to solve the mysteries along with Sister Mary Helen and the homicide and the readers meet memorable characters they can care about. If you don’t want to see a lot of gore, sex, and foul language, you might want to give these series a try. It’s best to read the books in order since later books refer back to earlier books.

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