A mystery within a mystery

Bob Moyer takes a look at a novel set in New Orleans and full of fire, murder, mystery, repentant nuns – and  (no surprise) heat and humidity.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

SCORCHED GRACE. A Sister Holiday Mystery. By Margot Douaihy. Gillian Flynn Books 320 pages. $27.95.

Before Sister Holiday joined the tiny New Orleans order of the Sisters of the Sublime Blood, she was a tattooed, gold-toothed, coke-snorting lesbian guitar player in a punk band. You might say she had some bad habits.

She can’t get rid of the tattoos or tooth, but she tries to adjust her attitude, teaching guitar to students in the school run by the nuns. Then someone sets a number of fires, people die, and it looks like someone is setting her up to take the fall. She resorts to another bad habit she developed — sleuthing.

She’s not very good at it. She gets in the way of the cops, annoys the fire inspector and alienates her compatriots. Her mantra—”Look at everything”—pays off, however. She does figure out the perpetrator in the end. Meanwhile, the author provides clues to another mystery at the heart of the book: Why did Sister Holiday become a nun? The answer resonates with the plot, and is part of what seems like a premise with an entertaining payoff.

Unfortunately, the payoff isn’t as enjoyable as it could be. The author herself has a few bad habits. She brings the plot to a standstill to fill in the sister’s backstory, she leaves what look like interesting characters undeveloped and she repeats herself (we all know New Orleans is hot and humid). Scorched Grace is a good read, but it could have been a great one.

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