Sister Mary Helen is getting on in years, but in addition to ministering daily to homeless women at a church-run refuge, she’s still the premier sleuth in residence at San Francisco’s Mount Saint Francis College. Her latest case falls literally into her lap when undercover police officer Sarah Spencer is shot just outside the refuge building, uttering only a single word as she dies in Mary Helen’s arms. Inspector Dennis Gallagher is furious, as always, when he finds Mary Helen on the scene, but his partner Kate Murphy, now Bassetti, greets her warmly—no surprise, considering the help the police will need cleaning up the neighborhood. Another undercover cop is ensconced in the New You Tattoo Parlor trying to track down rumors of a well-protected local prostitution ring. And prostitutes aren’t the refuge’s only problem. One of its daily visitors is Geraldine, a working-girl alumna worried sick about the disappearance of her nephew, tough guy Junior Johnson. She enlists Mary Helen’s help, and eventually they find him, another gunshot victim—and not the last, until Mary Helen, working with Kate and helped by a single clue, uncovers the killer.
The largely predictable adventure, though mostly for fans of the series (Requiem at the Refuge, 2000, etc.), is enlivened by interesting local color and softened by a mellowed Sister Mary Helen.