Sister Francesca

(creator: Camille Minichino)

Camille Minichino
Sister Francesca was aged 28 when the story opens. She explains, "I believed in everything the Catholic Church had taught me and I wanted to spend my life doing work that I could be sure was God's will." So she had become a Sister of Mary Immaculate at Potterstown, New York. Then she is sent to St Alban's University in the Bronx to study theology. It is a time when the Second Vatican Council "was sweeping through the Church like a coup to bring democracy to the hierarchical structure ordained by God himself" and all this comes as a challenge to Francesca. When told by old Mother Ignatius that, "It certainly was easier in the old days", she replies, "I'm sorry I missed them."

had been one of six children, and although her father was still alive and had encouraged her vocation, her mother had died of leukemia ten years before.

Camille Minichino (1937 - ) grew up in Revere in Massachusetts and graduated in mathematics at Emmanuel College, Boston, then became a nun in the Sisters of Notre Dame order for 20 years, teaching science, philosophy and physics at Emmanuel. She was awarded a Ph.D. in physics at Fordham University in New York and in the 1970s took a sabbatical from Emmanuel to work in a Department of Energy weapons lab design center in northern California, where she applied her scientific knowledge and also met her husband.

She has published over 20 novels and many short stories and non-fiction articles using not only her own name but that of Margaret Grace, and Ada Madison. She explains that using these pseudonyms was her publisher's idea - not hers. Her hope is to teach girls that science and math are fun and so encourage them to pursue careers in these areas. She is also an accomplished miniaturist, enjoying planning and assembling intricate dollshouses. She has long been based in San Francisco.

Killer in the Cloister (2014)
Killer in the Cloister is set in the fall of 1965 when Sister Francesca leaves her small town convent in upstate New York to study theology at a large university in the Bronx where she finds herself involved in the mysterious death of her new Superior, frightened old Mother Ignatius, who is said to have "died in her sleep" Or was the old woman a victim of greedy neighborhood businessmen who wanted to buy up the property adjoinng St Lucy's Hall? Or was she simply in the way of unstoppable changes in the Church?

Francesca finds herself asking so many questions that she "talked more in two days than during a whole Christmas season at the Motherhouse." Someone, she realises, had told her a lie - but should it be her concern for she really had "no right to know anything"? She imposes a penance on herself by binding a ten-inch metal chain with tiny spikes around her upper arm. But she continues with her quest, complicated by the arrival of her 19-year-old brother Tim who had been in trouble with the police for selling drugs. Another Sister is viciously attacked before it all builds up to a really dramatic climax in which Francesca risks her life by confronting the murderer who finds himself "caught unexpectedly in the fires of Hell".

The contrast between the comparatively relaxed life at St Lucy's with what Francesca had been used to is effectively brought out. They even have clean napkins at every meal! There is access to TVs and newspapers too. And they are about to use the new English liturgy. All this is very well done by an author who could write about it from personal experience. It makes an interesting story and is well told.

The author has her own website

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Killer in the Cloister title
The cover may look home-made, but don't let that put you off. The book is self-published on Kindle.
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