Books by Veronica Black

A VOW OF ADORATION by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Jan. 15, 1998

A ninth excursion into England's Cornwall, where the tiny Order of the Sisters of Compassion struggles to make ends meet and the Order's Sister Joan keeps getting involved in local police concerns (A Vow of Poverty, 1996, etc.). Walking one day into the empty schoolhouse on the moors where she'd once taught, Sister Joan finds the body of a man—his pockets empty of any identification. She calls the police station from a nearby dwelling where the friendly Mrs. Rufus keeps house for antiques dealer Michael Peter. The coroner pronounces the stranger's death a heart attack, and the case is closed. Meanwhile, Sister Joan has been approached by Caroline Hayes, a distraught young woman looking for her sister Crystal, recently married to Michael Peter. She and her invalid father were not invited to the wedding and haven't heard from Crystal in two months. Sister Joan, in conversation with Mrs. Rufus, was told that Crystal and her family were traveling on the Continent, an account confirmed by Michael Peter when Sister Joan visits his shop in town. In another foray to the Peter residence, Sister Joan uncovers hidden identification papers carrying the name of Crystal's father, purported by Caroline to be in the hospital. A robbery at Peter's house; Caroline's disappearance; a suitcase full of women's clothing found on a railway embankment; and a seemingly senseless murder lead our heroine to the bizarre scene where the even more bizarre answers to her questions are to be found. An exasperating jumble of convent routine, mini-sermons, contrivance, and coincidence. Strictly for Sister Joan's faithful fans. Read full book review >
A VOW OF POVERTY by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Nov. 14, 1996

An eighth round of dire happenings in England's minuscule religious order, the Daughters of Compassion, where plucky Sister Joan is again caught up in a series of calamities and is again acting as aide to Detective Sergeant Alan Mill (A Vow of Fidelity, p. 99, etc.). Sister Joan has been assigned by Prioress Dorothy to clear out the attic storerooms of the convent building, home for centuries to the wealthy Tarquin family and bought for a song from the estate of Sir Robert Tarquin—a punishment, according to gossip, for his ne'er-do-well son Grant, who was left little but a small house in the village. Grant, an accident victim abroad, lies next to his father in the abbey tombs. Or does he? Following up on a circular left at the convent, offering to buy scrap and old silver, Sister Joan meets answering service worker Jane Sinclair, who has never seen the man whose name is on the circular but who's much interested in a Tarquin family album borrowed from her landlady. Days later, Jane is found strangled. A second strangling victim is young Jeb, a squatter in Grant's empty house. In Sister Joan's mind, the identity of the killer is never in doubt— confirmed by her discovery of a third body in the convent attics, the results of a long overdue exhumation order, and a final confrontation with the unsurprising killer. The usual overload of convent routine and ritual; lots of sinister lurking figures, but little suspense in a plot that edges into sheer silliness with a common-sensedefying sacrificial gesture to wind it up. The weakest link to date in this modestly diverting chain. Read full book review >
A VOW OF FIDELITY by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 7, 1996

Sister Joan, of the tiny Order of the Daughters of Compassion in Cornwall, faces the most personal of her forays into crime- solving (A Vow of Devotion, 1995, etc.). A photograph received in the mail, with no sender noted, of her first-year art class, reminds Sister Joan that the group of ten had promised to reunite in 20 years, at Westminster Abbey—the date just a few days hence. Permission granted, she heads for London to meet the others: quiet Dodie Mason, married to engineer Colin, mother of two; bubbly Fiona, still a beauty, still unattached; Barbara Ford, then a nonentity, now an elegant career woman recently returned from New Zealand; buxom Serena, two divorces later, still living on Daddy's fortune. Two men have turned up also—handsome Derek Smith, whose wife Sally died three years before in a fall, and Paul Vance, who seems to have turned from straight to gay over the years. Missing is Bryan Grimes, killed in a hit and run, and Serge Roskoff, dead of a drug overdose—his pathetic young girlfriend later found dead, her throat slit. A lot of mortality for a small group of youngish people, Sister Joan muses as she awaits the group for a week's retreat at the convent. But that's not the half of it, Sister Joan will discover, as falsehoods are uncovered, domestic lives laid bare, old crimes revealed and new ones committed. The lean narrative and vivid sense of menace are undermined, in the end, by some clunky plot and contrivances of character, but it's an intriguing puzzle a good part of the way. Read full book review >
A VOW OF DEVOTION by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: July 13, 1995

The serenity of Cornwall's Convent of the Daughter of Compassion is being threatened by disquieting events that seem to have begun with the arrival of Bernadette Fawkes and Magdalen Cole. These two young women are on an extended visit to the convent, trying to decide if they want to join the order, while Mother Dorothy, the prioress, will judge if they're suited to the nun's life. Other new arrivals on the scene are Brother Cuthbert from Scotland, living as a hermit in the old schoolhouse, and an encampment of New Age travelers a few miles away. Thoughtful, spunky Sister Joan finds the convent's visitors mostly eager and complaisant, but Magdalen seems fearful, and one day Sister Joan discovers a flick knife in her possession. A string of single red roses found in odd places and sightings of an ominous bat-like figure add to an uneasiness climaxed by the bludgeoning death of postulant Sister Elizabeth. Sturdy, troubled Detective Sergeant Mill does his best, but it's Sister Joan who ferrets out the culprit and the crime's underlying motive. The tedious chronicle of daily convent routine and the usual bland characters remain unchanged, but, here, plot and motivation are livelier and more intriguing than others in the series (A Vow of Penance, 1994, etc.). For readers who like their mayhem easy, quiet, and polite. Read full book review >
A VOW OF PENANCE by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Aug. 15, 1994

The latest sleuthing adventures of bouncy young Sister Joan, a nun in a Cornwall convent. As in A Vow of Obedience (p. 247), Sister Joan has a professional assist from Detective Sergeant Mill, and, again, eerie appearances and most unpleasant death abound within and without the convent. As Sister Joan is just beginning to wrestle with her dislike of grim Sister Jerome, who arrives like a storm cloud from the order's London house, there's a puzzling call from the bustling housekeeper for the two local priests: aloof Father Stephen and newly ordained, glowering Father Timothy. Then the housekeeper is found dead. Before the murderer is brought to justice, there will be three grisly murders, and a bloody ax will appear on the convent's chapel altar. Among the other mysteries: What could explain the random slashing of trees? And why is the housekeeper's purse so important? Sister Joan explains it all for you—with the help of Sergeant Mill. The identity of the murderer may be no surprise to seasoned mystery hands, but this popular series offers peaceful convent decorum, with a giddy streak of gore and a likeable sleuth. Read full book review >
A VOW OF OBEDIENCE by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 22, 1994

Feisty Sister Joan of the Order of the Daughters of Compassion returns to her convent in Cornwall from summer retreat in Scotland to be greeted by the news that the tiny school where she taught children of local farmers and resident gypsies will be disbanded. On a last sentimental visit there, she finds the strangled corpse of young Valerie Pendon, missing for several days. When a second young Catholic girl, similarly dressed in virginal white, turns up dead soon after, Sister Joan once again becomes an unofficial aid to Detective Sergeant Mill (A Vow of Chastity, 1992, etc.), whose force has been augmented by icy Sergeant David Barratt, newly arrived from Birmingham with his timid wife, Daisy. The threat of violence moves closer to the convent with sightings of a skulking figure, a warning message on an interior door, and an unconscious Sister Hilaria found outside the gates, victim of a hit-and-run driver. Aided by a few stray phrases and some heavy research, Sister Joan draws up her own near-fatal scenario for catching the murderer, to be saved by ever-commonsensical Mother Dorothy. A labored plot short on solid underpinning deflates the menace, but Sister Joan's admirers will find her new adventure modestly engrossing. Read full book review >
A VOW OF SANCTITY by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Aug. 19, 1993

Sister Joan, sometime sleuth of the order of the Daughters of Compassion (A Vow of Chastity, etc.), is spending the end of summer in a spiritual retreat in remotest Scotland—a one-person cave high above a loch. She's welcomed by members of the nearby monastery and decides to make and present a painting of their church in return for their hospitality. The villagers, mostly non-Catholic, are not so friendly, with the exception of store-owner Dolly McKensie and her son and helper Rory. Dolly's womanizing husband disappeared six years ago—around the time Catherine Sinclair, the local minister's wife, died of an accidental overdose of prescribed drugs. Ever since then, the Sinclairs' sullen, sultry daughter Morag has avoided once best friend Rory. Meanwhile, Sister Joan's painting sessions at the monastery are touched with unease; she senses hidden eyes upon her—a feeling heightened by a strange discovery in the church's crypt. The surfacing, in a sudden storm, of a body in the loch, raises a host of questions. The answers, as quietly ferreted out by Sister Joan, are intriguing but contrived, producing happy but unconvincing endings all round. Nicely done craggy, uncomfortable atmosphere for a benign kind of villainy. Read full book review >
MY NAME IS POLLY WINTER by Veronica Black
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 26, 1993

A lively ghost story set in a residential area of Liverpool, where Jessica Cameron has rented a room in the comfortable old house of John and Sophy Clare while she researches a project on Victorian-era family life. Before long, she's confronted by signs of a psychic presence that she tries hard to rationalize. The Clares are hospitable—Sophy is jittery and drinks a bit; John loses himself in TV; they talk not at all of their two grown children and seem only slightly perturbed at the disappearance of their daily help Mrs. Tate. Jessica, meanwhile, is hearing and seeing echoes of the past as she pieces together a history of the house. It had once belonged to a libidinous Reverend Makin, who liked to rescue ``soiled doves'' from whorehouses, and the house, in his time, had suffered another unexplained disappearance. Past and present come together in an explosive, menace-filled denouement that answers all questions save those involving the supernatural. Nice plotting that sags a little midway but makes a good recovery. A boon for believers—plus fun for all—and one of the author's best (A Vow of Chastity, p. 216, etc.). Read full book review >
A VOW OF CHASTITY by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 7, 1992

A second story featuring impulsive, thirtysomething Sister Joan, a nun in the Order of the Daughters of Compassion, who lives in the Order's convent in the Cornwall countryside and teaches a small class of children from local farms and the nearby gypsy community, along with newcomer Samantha Olive, whose writer father has bought an old house in the area. Sister Joan is troubled by a string of small incidents centered on the convent chapel, where a crucifix has been moved, holy water has dried up, flowers and candles have disappeared. She's disturbed also by the strange lack of mischief among her young pupils. It all culminates in the discovery, in the chapel, of the poisoned body of Petroc Lee, a gypsy boy missing for several days. Keeping much pertinent information from Detective Sergeant Mill, Sister Joan embarks on her own investigation, eventually uncovering the particularly nasty (and unlikely) source of evil. Endless replays of the convent's daily routines and the less- than-credible plot weaken a sporadically interesting story, which lacks the cohesion of the series debut, Vow of Silence. Read full book review >
LAST SEEN WEARING by Veronica Black
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: July 24, 1991

This English author of historicals (pseudonymously) and a competent mystery (A Vow of Silence, 1990) now turns to suspense in this sluggish treatment of a usually gripping subject—the abduction of a small child. Joy Prentice, a single parent, has been supporting herself and three-year-old Sally—a pretty tot with an imaginary playmate—by free-lance typing and waitressing. It's from the restaurant where Joy works at night, and where Sally sleeps in a back room, that the child is kidnapped. Among those straining for a solution and urging tea and rest for Joy over a period of days are: concerned police, always available; work acquaintances; and Rory Baird from Toronto, a vacationing teacher and writer. Even Sally's father drops by—for publicity and to make a pass. Then odd, paternal-to-threatening notes begin to arrive from the kidnapper—and there'll be a hunt for an accomplice, a death, and a command performance in the cemetery where Sally used to play, before the happy reunion (in which Sally's imaginary playmate figures prominently). Old mystery/suspense hands will disdain the sudden appearance of the villain, and tire of the namby-pamby characters. Passable, but in all a bit bloodless. Read full book review >