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Novena for Murder (Sister Mary Helen, #1)
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Novena for Murder (Sister Mary Helen #1)

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  245 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Readers have come to delight in the murder-solving exploits of septuagenarian Sister Mary Helen, a nun with a nose for trouble. Publishers Weekly calls the Sister Mary Helen Mysteries "refreshingly different". Once you meet this spry, clever sleuth, you'll want to make a habit of reading her adventures again and again.

Sister Mary Helen isn't ready for retirement. Instead s
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Minotaur Books (first published January 1st 1984)
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In This House of Brede by Rumer GoddenSacred Hearts by Sarah DunantThe Nun's Story by Kathryn HulmeThe Monk by Matthew Gregory LewisThe Nun by Denis Diderot
107th out of 108 books — 60 voters
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Best Series With At Least 7 Books
308th out of 401 books — 234 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 539)
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Oct 24, 2008 Barbara rated it really liked it
I like these mysteries because the characters are consistent from book to book. Sister Mary Helen and her friend Eileen will become old friends, along with Sister Cecilia, the president of St. Francis College in San Francisco, young Sister Anne, who is in campus ministry and Sister Therese, who seems to be in charge of the convent. You will also meet Kate and Dennis, partners in the homicide department, and Jack, Kate’s significant other, and later husband.
In the first book Kate and Jack just l
May 20, 2015 C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have taken time collecting this series second-hand. Imagine my thrill and incredulity to receive this one.... AUTOGRAPHED! Sister Carol Anne O’Marie passed away recently, in 2009! I’ve received a gift that endures after the person, whose hand wrote a personal message to her recipient. To whet my whistle and try this book, is a long-savoured pleasure. Four stars leave room for better novels, which first volumes usually precede. I liked my introduction.

Foremost to me is an original premise and a
Mar 09, 2008 Hope rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: someone who enjoys a cozy mystery, but doesn't have anything else to read
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This is a rare book - one I started,but didn't finish.

My roommate happened to notice it, and thought I might enjoy a catholic mystery story. And I probably would, just not this one.

It's a pleasant enough cozy mystery, but not good enough that I wanted to keep reading it. The writing was okay, and the plot wasn't too terrible. The painfully stereotypical characters were grating, and despite my affection for Miss Marple, I thought I might scream if Sister Mary Helen mentioned her again.
Olean Public Library
-I really enjoyed this quaint, easy to read mystery. It wasn’t difficult to solve, but the author didn’t insult the reader’s intelligence either. A newly retired nun becomes a detective when there is a murder on the college campus where she now resides. It was cute, if a murder mystery can be called that.
Jul 06, 2008 Linda rated it liked it
A fun little murder mystery...a nice little escape from heavy reading (or something you can read in bed all afternoon while it is raining).
Apr 14, 2011 Birgit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never before come across a mystery novel, or any novel come to think of it, written by a nun, but curiosity got the better of me with this one as I love the genre
Sister Carol Anne O'Marie presents a sweet and cozy little mystery novel in this first part of a series. The main protoganist, Sister Mary Helen, is a retired nun that's just a bit like good old Miss Marple, always stumbling over dead bodies and consequently snooping around to find out who murdered a professor at her alma mater. Wi
Andrea Hickman Walker
My favourite kind of murder mystery, one that involves nuns. This is a rather pedestrian mystery, but it's fun nonetheless. The characters are believable, even the ones that one doesn't particularly like. The police are believable and, most importantly, not complete idiots. There's nothing worse than a murder mystery where one has to 'take over' the investigation because the police are twits. It's not often that that happens in real life, I don't know why it's so ubiquitous in murder mysteries.

Jul 01, 2014 Kate rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, fiction
A silly, somewhat dated cozy, but the characters are solid and this is a unique take on the genre. I like that the nuns are three-dimensional people, likely assisted by the fact that the author is a nun herself. A big negative, and part of what dates this series so terribly, is the racial and cultural stereotyping present throughout, down to caricatures of Italians, Hispanics, and Irish people.
Diane Zielinski
May 26, 2014 Diane Zielinski rated it liked it
I liked the characters of the nuns and the old school convent life, but I wasn't at all invested in the murder victims-- people at the college associated with the Portuguese immigrant community. I thought the story could have had more bite or even humor-- one senior nun always seemed to have a different, obscure saint to pray to for every occasion-- but it didn't seem to go deep enough or give the authors point of view. Hopefully, like with many authors, the writing will get better in later book ...more
Oct 26, 2014 CJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a former Catholic and Catholic school teacher, I read this after having been given #6 in the series by a friend. I had enjoyed the latter so wanted to start the series at the beginning. The location of the mysteries is also familiar to me which makes it more real. If this book had been my first, there's no doubt I would have continued! Sister Mary Helen is old (as I am), reads mysteries/detective stores (as I do) so our only differences are our faiths and our lifestyles, neither of which less ...more
O'Marie, Suster Carol Anne - 1st in series

Sister Mary Helen isn't ready for retirement. Instead she's arrived at a San Francisco women's college to teach history and perhaps shake things up. An earthquake does that before she can, and amid the rubble lies a body. An "Act of God" is not responsible for the death, but rather murder. One of Sister Helen's fellow nuns begins a novena to St. Dismas, "the Good Thief" predicting the saint will reveal the murderer within nine day
Feb 19, 2015 Fmorlan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sr. Mary Helen arrives at the college in San Francisco after retiring. Her friend Sr. Eileen is there, Sr. Therese, and a young sister Sr. Anne. Sr. Mary enjoys mysteries but is not thrilled when she gets involved in murder on the campus. Sr. Therese starts a novena to find the culprit. Detectivrs Gallagher and Murphy are assigned to the case. Murphy attended the college earlier to please her father. She is a relationship with another investigator that has issues. People are missing, peo ...more
Mary Helene
Jul 09, 2007 Mary Helene rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: graduates of Lone Mountain or USF
I enjoyed this book for its setting (Lone Mountain College for Women in San Francisco, although she gives it another name) and for the portrait it gives of an era, but it's a mannered portrait and feels false 30 years later. (This is in contrast to Dorothy Sayer's mysteries.)

My mother went to Lone Mountain for a year in the early 40s. It's nickname then was "San Francisco's college for lonely women." (It might have been "Holy Hill",too; I just never heard that.)

When I was at USF, I would sometim
Linda Rawlins
Mar 06, 2014 Linda Rawlins rated it really liked it
Shelves: catholic-fiction
A Novena for Murder is the first book in a series by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie. Her protagonist, Sister Mary Helen, has just retired and is looking for some time to read and relax. Instead, she is thrust into the middle of multiple homicides being committed on Holy Hill at Mount St. Francis College for Women in San Francisco. Sister Mary Helen and her friend Sister Eileen help to solve the mystery. The book was written in 1984 so the investigative technique is a bit outdated. For instance, the d ...more
Donna Syler
Apr 24, 2014 Donna Syler rated it it was amazing
Love all of her books. I have read every one
Apr 22, 2009 Awallens rated it liked it
Despite only giving this three stars, it's safe to say I liked this cozy mystery. I don't know why cozy mysteries are called cozy, but this one seems to be in the same genre so that's what I'll call it. Sister Mary Helen, Sister aileen, and Sister Anne, along with the two police detectives were engaging and fun, despite the gruesome crimes. At times I found the mystery a little to cute— I mean, getting hit in the head with a statue?— but overall I would recommend this book and Iwill continue rea ...more
Jennifer Bagby
Sep 20, 2015 Jennifer Bagby marked it as to-read
Shelves: period-mystery, own
Sister Mary Helen
1. A Novena For Murder (1984)
2. Advent of Dying (1986)
3. The Missing Madona (1988)
4. Murder in Ordinary Time (1991)
5. Murder Makes a Pilgrimage (1993)
6. Death Goes on Retreat (1995)
7. Death of an Angel (1996)
8. Death Takes Up a Collection (1998)
9. Requiem at the Refuge (2000)
10. The Corporal Works of Murder (2002)
11. Murder at the Monk's Table (2005)
Mar 22, 2008 Trish rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anne
Sister Mary Helen is AWESOME. This is her first go at solving murders and I really loved it. She reminds me of someone of whom I hold in very high regard. I want to get the whole series as soon as possible. Again, not great literature but for a mystery reader and someone as interested in the role of women in my Church - I loved it!!
Sep 05, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
A compelling sleuth, Sister Mary Helen's character appealed, and I look forward of reading more about her sensibly shod exploits. The plot's twists were reasonably well crafted as well. The wrap-it-all-up-with-a-bow epilogue grated on me, though. My recommendation - read it, but skip the epilogue.
N. Wolf
Aug 07, 2015 N. Wolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One murder, much less two, on campus is more than enough for Sister Mary Helen. With the aid of a novena, foremost, and other Sisters, Sister Mary Helen tries to solve both cases. This intriguing mystery also extols Catholic virtues.
Jul 29, 2011 Pat added it
Retired nun Sister Mary Helen experiences an earthquake in a girls' college near San Francisco and runs into a murderous conspiracy, first with the death of a college professor. And then the corpses pile up. A charming cozy mystery.
Mary  (Biblophile)
Apr 21, 2009 Mary (Biblophile) rated it liked it
Shelves: cozy-mystery
An enjoyable little read featuring Sister Mary Helen and Sister Ellen. I like this little series because the elderly nuns play off each other and the murder, though not complicated, is enough to keep you interested.
Edna Little Fish In Running Waters Spring
Sister Mary Helen is such a great person. I learned that NUNS are entertaining, and I learned about the workings of the Convent, more about the Internal and External Nun's.
May 18, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
This was really enjoyable and I look forward to reading on in the series.

A 75 year old semi-retired nun turned amateur detective...move over Miss Marple!
May 30, 2011 Martha rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the entire series of Sister Mary Helen mysteries. The author, Sister Carol Anne O'Marie has an interesting story herself.
Jan 08, 2011 Sue rated it liked it
felt like I had to read at least one of her books-since she was my math teacher in High school.
Just right pace and plot for a cozy mystery. I'll definitely be reading more in this series.
Jan 16, 2013 Kyrie rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Light, funny mystery involving elderly nuns and a mismatched pair of detectives.
Novena for Murder (Sister Mary Helen Mysteries) by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie (2005)
Jul 19, 2009 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
A crime story with a difference - the 'detective' is a retired nun.
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Other Books in the Series

Sister Mary Helen (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Advent of Dying (Sister Mary Helen #2)
  • The Missing Madonna (Sister Mary Helen, #3)
  • Murder in Ordinary Time (Sister Mary Helen, #4)
  • Murder Makes a Pilgrimage (Sister Mary Helen, #5)
  • Death Goes on Retreat (Sister Mary Helen, #6)
  • Death of an Angel (Sister Mary Helen, #7)
  • Death Takes Up a Collection (Sister Mary Helen, #8)
  • Requiem at the Refuge (Sister Mary Helen, #9)
  • The Corporal Works of Murder (Sister Mary Helen, #10)
  • Murder at the Monks' Table (Sister Mary Helen, #11)

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