Review: Devious, Lisa Jackson

| 18 April , 2011 | Reply

Diane Sexton

Warning: Don’t start this book late at night. Or alone. Or alone late at night. And definitely not alone late at night in a cathedral. Because that is where Lisa Jackson’s latest murder mystery, Devious, opens. Creepy, to say the least, with the first murder happening only a few pages in. First murder? I hear you ask .. because, oh yes, there are more. It seems New Orleans is in the grip of a serial killer who is targetting nuns at St Marguerite’s convent. Nuns who happen to be dressed in bridal gowns before they are murdered.

Lisa Jackson’s detectives Bentz and Montoya return in their seventh mystery set in the steamy city of New Orleans. The story follows Valerie Renard whose sister Camille was the first murdered nun. Val and Camille’s adoptive parents have passed away, leaving Val alone in the world. She happens to also be pursuing a divorce from her husband, Texas rancher Slade Houston, because she caught him in flagrante with Camille. That is, before Camille decided to join the convent. Through the course of the investigation, many of Camille’s secrets come to light, including a coded diary containing explicit details of her various romantic involvements both before – and after – becoming a nun.

Bentz and Montoya, meanwhile, feel constantly several steps behind the killer who seems to be working through the novitiate at St Marguerite’s. To complicate matters, the murders follow a pattern identical to those of Father John, a serial killer that Bentz and Montoya thought they had seen the last of, with a gunshot wound, courtesy of Bentz, in a swamp several years ago.

From the start we get the feeling that life in the convent isn’t as simple and unworldly as you would expect. The nuns of St Marguerite’s all seem to have their own secrets, from Sister Charity the Reverend Mother down through to the newest novice. Is each nun hiding from something or someone on the outside of the convent? Or are they really following a calling to God? And it seems an uncommonly large proportion of them have all come from the same orphanage where Val and Camille were adopted from. Is that the link that the killer is using, making Val a target too? The detectives have their work cut out to pierce both the convent and orphanage’s innate mystery and the mystery of the murders.

As well as being a murder mystery, the novel has great descriptions and background in the city of New Orleans, although I’m sure the descriptions of convent life are more imaginative than representative.

I’m not normally a fan of crime writing, so I really enjoyed the side plots involving the cheerful Freya, Val’s business partner, and the incredibly interesting not-quite-ex-husband Slade. The novel ends on an interesting note, with the murderer of the nuns turning out to be … well, maybe I’ll let you read it for yourself!

Available Now: Hachette RRP $24.99


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