When the Bishop calls because of a murder, Episcopalian priest Alma Lee is quick to help. Having just solved a case involving one of her parishioners, she’s eager to do more. Without her, an innocent man would have gone to jail and she feels a calling to help justice prevail. The murdered woman is found at the cathedral, body laid out, and Alma is there to do what she can and work with the police.
The Very Reverend Damien Gough knows the victim, as she was about to become his sister-in-law, and Alma is quickly entrenched with the Gough family. Brent, the groom, and Kat, Brent’s daughter, both have motive. But Alma is all about finding out the truth, as much as she wants to protect the innocent.
And while she’s hot on the case, both her ex-boyfriend, Detective Cesar Garza, and her ex-girlfriend, Rabbi Naomi Cohen, are making noises about wanting her back. As much as Alma loves Cesar, she’s moved on. And as much as she wants Naomi, Naomi wants different things. But Alma won’t let her feelings for either person distract her. Especially not when the clues all come together and the murderer takes drastic action.
I was quick to pick up this second installment of the Reverend Alma Lee Mystery series, having loved the first one. I like Belldene’s writing and the characters she crafts. Alma is big hearted, open minded, bisexual, and a truly good person. The secondary characters fill out the cast so well and give the story a great ensemble feeling, with Alma leading the way. I will say I have mixed feelings about this book though, and I’ll tell you why.
This story has less of a romantic subplot than the first, which isn’t a downside, exactly. I mean, I like a healthy dose of romance in with my mystery, but that’s not what this series is solely about. I knew that going in, so it wasn’t a disappointment, but it’s why I wanted to mention it, in case any reader was expecting it. What got me down about the romantic side of thing was that at the end, we have a moment of prejudice when Naomi finds out Alma is bi. It was a disappointment to see, even though I know it’s a very real thing. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, I wished the author had chosen a different approach there.
But my mixed feelings really stem from two points. The first being the major plot line, specifically with the murderer. I won’t give anything away, this is a mystery after all, but I will say that I found it disappointing who the killer ended up being and their motivation behind it all. While believable, it wasn’t terribly original, and that had the mystery lover in me disappointed. Even if the killer had stayed the same, but had a different motivation, I would have been more on board. As it was, I wasn’t overly impressed with the plot line. Though I will make mention again that this author has a real knack for writing engaging narrative and, despite my disappointment, I was all in.
In regards to the writing, I did have one of my pet peeves front and center in this book. While the author does an outstanding job painting a picture with words, there was one repetitive phrase that continually pulled me out of the story. The author chose to break the fourth wall, and have the phrases “reader” and “dear reader” peppered throughout the book, so that Alma was talking directly to us. It didn’t work for me as I believe the author intended it to. Many readers won’t have a problem with it, but for me, it was too much and too often, and as I said, pulled me from the story.
Despite all that, I do greatly enjoy this author’s voice and I love the characters, especially Reverend Alma Lee. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, then I suggest this series. And as in the first book, the last lines of this story set up the next book. I’m looking forward to seeing what is up next.