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Death Comes As Epiphany (Catherine LeVendeur #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,492 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Catherine LeVendeur is a young scholar come to conquer her sin of pride at the Convent of the Paraclete, famous for learning, prayer, and its abbess, the fabled Heloise.

When a manuscript the convent produced for the great Abbe Suger disappears, rumors surface saying the book contains sacrilegious passages and will be used to condemn Heloise's famous lover, Peter Abelard.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 5th 2002 by Forge Books (first published 1993)
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
101st out of 1,278 books — 3,260 voters
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth PetersThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan BradleyThe Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. KingMaisie Dobbs by Jacqueline WinspearMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Favorite Historical Mystery Series
130th out of 765 books — 858 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Clif Hostetler
Aug 27, 2009 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick look (not necessarily exhaustive or complete) through the list of those who have read this book on shows that I may be the only person of male gender to have read this book. Hmmm, Oh well, I enjoyed it anyway. It's a murder mystery, historical novel (12th Century France), romance and thriller all rolled into one. However, the medieval setting gives the book a mood and tone that will never be found in a modern mystery-romance-thriller novel. It helps for the reader to be fam ...more
Joyce Lagow
There is a full blown sub genre in mystery writing that is devoted to the historical mystery . It most likely was started off by Umberto Eco's vastly popular The Name of the Rose, which was turned into a great movie. Then somewhere along about this time came Ellis Peters and her Brother Cadfel medieval mysteries, set in England at the time of the Maude/Stephen civil wars in the early 12th century. The field quickly filled until today we have crimes being solved in fiction ranging from post World ...more
I enjoyed many aspects of this book. It is always interesting to see how different life was. In this case particularly how religion played such an important role. There were some aspects that were somewhat overdone for me however (view spoiler). I would be open to reading more of the series though.
Aug 05, 2013 Kelsey rated it really liked it
Do you like…?
• The Middle Ages
• Mystery
• Historical fiction
• Intelligent, zealous, and innocent heroines
• Mysticism
• France
• Sean Connery in Goldfinger The Name of the Rose

Then you’ll like this book.

My Medieval Studies professor recommended this as a good example of a realistic medieval setting. She was true to her word: Newman slips in interesting facts without once appearing pedantic. We learn about cures for ailments, religious rituals, strained race relations, and chivalrous tournaments as e
Jun 07, 2013 Courtney rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-book-150
I adore ecclesiastical mysteries. It began with with the Brother Cadfael series and ran wild from there.

This book had two things going for it: an amazing heroine, and a. beautifully layered mystery. Catherine would be right at home alongside Galileo' s daughters. She's that rarity in the medieval world: intelligent *and* educated. Her piety is somewhat underdeveloped,, but the true lure of the convent for Catherine lay in books: reading writing, assembling. And it is a book that lands Catherine
Jun 13, 2009 Felicity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of well-crafted historical mystery
Recommended to Felicity by: Sara M. & Camille A.
An engrossing plot, charming heroine and intriguing historical details. The main characters were well-drawn and likeable, and the use of Heloise and Abelard did not seem ponderous or contrived (as use of historical personages in fiction sometimes does.) I liked the thorough depiction of the culture, especially the way people's belief in the supernatural was pervasive and convincing.

My only quibble was with the occasional forays into the perspective of secondary characters. I felt it added little
Aug 29, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of historical fiction, mystery readers
Shelves: mystery, historical
Amazing. Makes 12th-century France seem very alive and real, and avoids the trap of making characters in a historical novel paragons of the modern day. Later novels fall off in quality, but this one is absolutely top-notch.
Elena Santangelo
Apr 28, 2016 Elena Santangelo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Sharan Newman shows her amazing expertise in this era of history, but this isn't all dry facts. Fast paced story, great characters and a satisfying mystery and romance.
Rebecca Mulligan
A Wonderful Medieval Series is Born

This is the beginning book in the Catherine LeVendeur mysteries. Katherine, a young novice about to take her vows, travels to Paris to seek out the infamous Abelard. His love, Heloise is the abbess of Catharine's nunnery and it appears that someone is trying to slander Heloise, Abelard and the nunnery by changing a sacred scripture prepared by Catherine so that it is pornographic and heretical. Catherine was then sent home under the guise that she has been diso
Feb 15, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
There's so much more of a gamble making your main character a young unmarried woman in a time when women had few rights and if they came from families with money, their movements were even more restricted.

Catherine has been living in an abbey for 3 years with the intention of becoming a nun. Her Mother Superior asks her to pretend to leave the abbey in disgrace to track down a book the abbey produced in honor of a controversial religious figure. Its been rumored that this book has been defaced
Karen Harrison
Mar 21, 2016 Karen Harrison rated it it was amazing
One of the best historical fiction mysteries I've ever read!!
Jan 13, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it
I read this years ago and remember really enjoying it...there was also a romance, which just added to its appeal :) Very firmly entrenched in the medieval period, yet still accessible to all contemporary readers.
Recommended to me by a mystery-fanatic, I enjoyed many aspects of this books from its compelling characters, intriguing mysteries and of course, its time period. Let's face it, who doesn't like the romanticsim of Heloise and Abelard? But no seriously, what made this book stand out for me was getting the combination of these elements just right. I found Catherine to be a compelling character with a certain amount of intelligence and chutzpah that is needed for a Medieval heroine, but with some na ...more
Jul 13, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing
This book was, obviously, a really fast read for me. I couldn't make myself put it down, actually. Every spare moment (and some moments that weren't spare) I was reading it.

The characterization was great! I loved both Edgar and Catherine, as well as the minor and more secondary characters. Someone who is interested in everything being perfectly, historically accurate would probably not appreciate some of the things the author did - certain of the characters express some rather modern views. Howe
Jan 09, 2013 April rated it it was ok
I thought I would end up enjoying this book since the beginning of it was so strong. The characters seemed interesting and the portrayals of medieval life appeared well researched. I was looking forward to a nice medieval mystery novel. But somewhere in the middle of the book, the mystery and logic got lost. Or maybe I just got turned off by the over-sexed Satanist that appeared mid-way that solicited Catherine (I literally cracked up laughing at that part and I'm sure the author had not meant f ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catherine LeVendeur is a young scholar come to conquer her sin of pride at the Convent of the Paraclete, a convent famous for learning and prayer, and its abbess, the fabled Heloise.

When a manuscript that the convent produced for the great Abbé Suger disappears, rumors surface that the book contains sacrilegious passages and will be used to condemn Heloise's famous lover, Peter Abelard.

To save her Order and protect all she holds dear, Catherine must find the manuscript and discover who has alter
Ana T.
A medievalist breathes life and vigour into the scholastic debates and religious controversies of 12th-century France in this entrancing mystery debut. Catherine LeVendeur, a young novice and scholar at the Convent of the Paraclete, is sent by the Abbess Heloise on a perilous mission to find out who is trying to destroy the reputation of the convent and, through it, that of the abbess's onetime lover and patron, theologian Peter Abelard. A Psalter created at the convent and given as a gift to th ...more
Apr 29, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing
I love all of the books in the Catherine LeVendeur series, but will just write a review of this one since it's the first.

These books are set in the 1100s in France. I love learning about that period of time and what a family's routine might have been like. I also love the historic figures that make appearances - getting to learn about them.

Specifically about the series - so well written and interesting. The heroine is a very smart, independent, and deeply religious woman. For the Catholics of t
Newman, Sharan - 1st in Catherine LeVendeur series

Catherine LeVendeur, a young novice and scholar at the Convent of the Paraclete, is sent by the Abbess Heloise on a perilous mission to find out who is trying to destroy the reputation of the convent and, through it, that of the abbess's onetime lover and patron, theologian Peter Abelard. A psalter created at the convent and given as a gift to the powerful abbot Suger of Saint-Denis is later rumored to contain her
Carla Hostetter
Jan 10, 2016 Carla Hostetter rated it it was amazing
I read this first book in the series years ago and recently reread it for a book club. I realized what I remembered were the characters and the depth of scholarship that went into the medieval setting portraying the times without be didactic. Didn't recall a bit of the mystery plot and so enjoyed solving the mystery again. I did read this entire set of books, and what stuck with me every time were the characters, their lives, so restricted for women in those times, and the power of religion over ...more
Oct 29, 2011 Sandie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I read this book because a friend lent it to me and because I was interested in the story of Heloise and Abelard. Their story is a background for the book and it stays in the background. The main character is Catherine LeVendeur, an intellectual young women from a prosperous family, who is studying to become a nun. When a psalter written by the convent Heloise runs is defaced, it threatens to destroy her reputation, and she sends Catherine to find out what is going on. As Catherine does so, she ...more
Sarah Adamson
Apr 02, 2014 Sarah Adamson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very hopeful that this book would be a female version of Ellis Peters Cadfael or something even better - and I was not disappointed.
This book features a 12th century nun-novice in France. The book explores the amazing history, relationships, religious beliefs and everyday life whilst also embarking on a great mystery story. I really enjoyed this book and will be on the lookout for more by this very talented author.
Apr 30, 2010 melydia rated it really liked it
Catherine LeVendeur is a novice nun who, while devoted to God, is more interested in the fact that living in a convent allows her to study and learn. When a psalter she helped write is defiled, the abbess sends her home to discover the vandal. In the midst of this she is swept up in a mystery of murder, theft, and vanity, as well as a timid budding romance with a secretive man. I enjoyed this one, which surprised me a little since I'm not much of a mystery reader, but I think what fascinated me ...more
Jennifer Heise
Sep 12, 2015 Jennifer Heise rated it liked it
A medieval mystery involved with the convent of the Paraclete? I had to read it, even if I was doubtful how good it would be. Well, at the risk of damning with faint praise, I was pleased to find it's quite enjoyable. The characters have mostly-believable motivations that are consistent with the culture of the time (though there were reverses in character that made me doubtful), and the plot didn't have glaring plot holes. I enjoyed the company of the main characters, especially Catherine LeVend ...more
Kate Forsyth
Jun 09, 2014 Kate Forsyth rated it really liked it
I’ve always had a soft spot for a medieval murder mystery, thanks no doubt to all the Cadfael books I read as a teenager. Sharan Newman is a new author for me (always a risk), but I enjoyed this very much and am planning to get the next in the series.

The story revolves around Catherine LeVendeur, a headstrong and clever young woman who has been sent to the Convent of the Paraclete, famous for its abbess, the fabled Heloise. When a manuscript created by the convent disappears, Heloise asks Cathe
Sep 22, 2011 Paula rated it liked it
This was a fun, light read. Set in 1139 France, Catherine LeVendeur is a novice nun who has not yet taken her final vows. She is at the Convent of the Paraclete studying under the abbess Heloise. Catheine had a part in preparing a manuscript for Abbe' Sugar that has disappeared and word is that the manuscript has been defaced with heresy. Catherine is sent back to her family from the convent in the disguise of a disgraced nun, but in reality is on a mission to find the missing manuscript and det ...more
Lady Knight
It's been years since I last read a Catherine LeVendeur mystery and honestly I'd forgotten just how enjoyable a read they are! Are there flaws? Admittedly there is the odd plot hole... but they're minor and unless you're on a re-read, you're too caught up in the story to notice. The characters are dynamic, the setting is unusual and wonderful, and best of all we get a great mystery written by a scholar (the ultimate history buff) but without the pretensions.

All in all this is definitely a winne
Aug 11, 2015 Abcdarian rated it it was ok
There are several medieval mystery series that I like a lot, but this book does not entice me to read any further in this one. Overly complex and not happily resolved plot, somewhat unsympathetic main character, far too much screaming and yelling, and creepy sexual innuendoes.
Wendy Kobylarz-Chouvarda
This medieval mystery has a modern slant. Not in an obnoxious way, but in its writing: thankfully it's not written in some pretend version of Olde English (which I've encountered in other novels). It is a little anachronistic but much less irritating than the occasional
'twas and thee and so forth to give it that medieval flavor.
It wasn't the best as a mystery, though the twist was a bit of a surprise (not a huge one, but something of one), but the characters are nicely drawn and those who are s
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Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and author. She took her Master’s degree in Medieval Literature at Michigan State University and then did her doctoral work at the University of California at Santa Barbara in Medieval Studies, specializing in twelfth-century France. She is a member of the Medieval Academy and the Medieval Association of the Pacific.

Rather than teach, Newman chose to use her e
More about Sharan Newman...

Other Books in the Series

Catherine LeVendeur (10 books)
  • The Devil's Door (Catherine LeVendeur, #2)
  • The Wandering Arm (Catherine LeVendeur, #3)
  • Strong as Death (Catherine LeVendeur, #4)
  • Cursed in the Blood (Catherine LeVendeur, #5)
  • The Difficult Saint (Catherine LeVendeur, #6)
  • To Wear The White Cloak (Catherine LeVendeur, #7)
  • Heresy (Catherine LeVendeur, #8)
  • The Outcast Dove (Catherine LeVendeur, #9)
  • The Witch in the Well (Catherine LeVendeur, #10)

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“Catherine Le Vendeur," he asked sententiously, "have you known this man carnally?"
"No father," Catherine answered. "But, with your kind permission, I would very much like to.”
“And, for some, closeness to death brings an epiphany which alters their lives forever.” 2 likes
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