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Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers
Review by Mel Jacob
Mira Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780778312352
Date: 23 August 2011 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Carla Neggers's latest mystery, Saint's Gate, follows FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan as they hunt the murderer of a nun and seek a missing painting. Growing physical attraction complicates their efforts. Someone places a bomb in the attic Emma's grandfather's house and rifles his old file stored in the attic of his former home looking for something. He once owned the stolen picture.

Sister Joan, the nun killed, had asked Emma to consult with her, but failed to say what she wanted to talk about. Before she can tell Emma, she is killed. When the nun fails to meet Emma as promised, she goes into the convent grounds to find her and encounters a young novice, Sister Cecilia, shivering in fear on a rocky cliffside above the ocean. With persistence, she coaxes the girl to safety. The nun claims she saw someone in black running away.

The convent of the Sisters of the Joyful Heart specializes in art conservation and education. The uncloistered order has established a world-wide reputation. Emma comes from a family of art theft expects skilled at locating and recovering stolen art. She also spent a period at the convent as a novice, but never took her final vows.

Later, Sister Cecilia tells Emma about a painting Sister Joan was cleaning before she was killed and that is now missing. Called the "Garden Gallery", it featured a series of pictures of other paintings including one of a saint and was by a local artist.

The hunt for clues taxes the resources of the Maine police and the FBI. How much does know Sister Cecilia know about the theft? Who even knew of the painting or why Sister Joan had called Emma?

The hunt goes from Maine to Ireland and back. A series of thefts in England and elsewhere may be related to the missing painting. So far, only Sister Joan has been killed, but attacks associated with the thefts have become ever more violent and the FBI fears more murders will occur. The mysterious pasts of several people involved with painting provide more questions, suspects, and possible victims.

In addition to Emma and Colin, Irish priest Father Finian Bracken, a former whiskey maker, adds spice to novel. Most readers will hope to see more of this trio in the future. Astute mystery readers may identify the killer, but most will find the killer a surprise. The life-threatening climax keeps the pages turning.

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