Some writers are fortunate to create a new book niche — think Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series. Donna Fletcher Crow has achieved this with her “Monastery Murders” series. She pens mystery books that have the traditional murder and romance but are bound together with early church and English history. Lest you think this sounds boring, let me assure you this is not the case.
“A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary” is the fourth in her series, and while I had not read the previous books, I didn’t have any trouble following the story or characters. I enjoyed her gift of writing scenes so that you felt you were walking the streets of Oxford yourself.
The books center on Felicity Howard, a young American studying theology in England, and her fiance, Father Anthony Sherwood.
In this story, Felicity comes to Oxford at the request of the Sisters of the Love of God monastery to translate a Latin manuscript on the life of Oxford’s patron saint, St. Frideswide. The monastery is excited to have been loaned a reliquary of Frideswide for their festival celebrating her life and martyrdom.
Unfortunately, Felicity discovers that the reliquary no longer contains Frideswide’s mummified hand, but a freshly amputated hand, and thereby is drawn to solving the mystery before anyone else suffers a similar fate.
Information about the early church in England and medieval English history is woven through the fast-paced story, providing a fascinating backdrop to the mystery.
I wondered how an Idaho writer could write with such depth of knowledge about England and the early church and found that it came about in several ways. Crow says she had longed to tell stories about the heroes of the early church for years, but until the “Monastery Murders” inception did not have a suitable platform on which to combine them. Her English literature major in college contained a lot of English history and whetted her appetite for all things English.
She feels relating stories of the early church serves to remind today’s church of the sacrifices others have made to preserve the Gospel.
I look forward to reading the first three in the series.