Why would someone set a murder mystery in a Catholic monastery? Oh, there are so many wonderful reasons. Here are mine.
Many of the Catholic monasteries in California are patterned after the Spanish missions originally established by Father Junipero Serra in the 1700s. I grew up next to one of them in my home town of Sierra Madre. It was a huge, white stucco building with a large bell tower and expansive grounds. I played up there as a child and remember it as being an ever-present backdrop to my childhood. That’s why I chose to set my paranormal mystery, Mass Murder, at a fictional monastery called, St. Augustine’s, in a similar location.
The sprawling Spanish monastery held a commanding place at the top of the hill, while the distinctive bell tower loomed into the night sky like the centerpiece from a stage play.
Catholic monasteries are reclusive, secretive worlds of their own. For the priests and nuns who inhabit them, they represent a lifetime of sacrifice and solitude, faith and reverence and are built to reflect that.
Giorgio wandered back into the bedroom. The room reminded him of his dormitory room at the police academy, except this room was peaceful. Here, he could picture a monk sitting at the desk late into the evening with only a candle to light his studies. It was that kind of solitary life that had prevented Giorgio from entering the seminary − that and the vow of celibacy.
But priests and nuns share the same wants and desires the rest of us have. They just suppress them. And the buildings are designed to help. They’re also built to last decades, even centuries, and create an imposing footprint on the surrounding landscape.
The path ended at a massive wooden door that could have come straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, complete with iron metal work. The doorframe was topped by a Moorish striped arch, and some ten feet above that, a small rose window was cut into the stucco.
In Mass Murder, I worked hard to make St. Augustine’s stand out as another character in the book by bringing everything about the monastery to life. How did I do this without describing every little detail? By creating a puzzle to be solved − how did the killer get the victim from her room to the supply closet without being seen by the attendees at a writers’ conference? As Detective Salvatori attempts to solve that puzzle, he is forced to unravel the mystery of the building itself.
Something didn’t add up. Unless Mallery Olsen left her room at some point and was killed outside, she had to have been killed in her room.
That one question – how did the killer get the victim to the closet? − complicates everything about this investigation. And the monastery is a stubborn competitor. Built on top of the ruins of an old Spanish rancho, the building doesn’t give up its secrets easily.
After a cursory turn around the perimeter of the gravesite, he walked the length of the upper hillside studying the characteristics of what he could see of the main building. Something about this building bothered him.
Eventually, Salvatori must accept clues from the ghost of a boy who committed murder on the property back in the 1940s when the monastery included a boys’ school. As bodies pile up, Salvatori’s search leads him to the graveyard where he must unearth a time capsule in order to get the information he needs. In the end, he finds the key (literally) and is led to a series of secret doors and subterranean tunnels that make up the very foundation of the building. What he doesn’t yet know however, is that these secret hideaways have not only hidden a killer, but allowed a cancer to grow amongst these hallowed halls.
Mass Murder is a paranormal mystery novel that will appeal to lovers of the classic “who-dunnits” and endorsed by Grub Street Reads as an “excellent read”. Set in the author’s hometown of Sierra Madre, California, Detective Giorgio Salvatori is called in when a woman is found dead, hanging by her bra strap in the supply closet of the Catholic monastery. As a former New York detective, Detective Salvatori has seen the worst humanity has to offer, but he doesn’t have a good feeling about this case. Soon, his suspicions are borne out when a second body is found buried in the garden. Says later, one of the monks is found floating face down in the duck pond. To complicate matters, the specter of a young boy who committed murder back in the 1940s, appears to be sending a message of some sort. But what is it? And does this decades-old mystery have anything to do with Salvatori’s current investigation? It’s available for $2.99 only as an eBook on Amazon.
Lynn Bohart holds a Master’s Degree in theater, specifically in directing. As a 30-year nonprofit executive, she has spent her entire career honing the craft of writing: newsletters, brochures, fundraising appeals, grants, website content, etc. But she has always written on the side for fun and profit (more fun than profit). Published in Woman’s World and “Dead on Demand”, an anthology of ghost stories which spent six months on the Library Journal’s bestseller list, she also spent six months writing a weekly column for Patch.com. Now, Ms. Bohart has self-published her first e-book, “Your Worst Nightmare”, a group of six paranormal short stories, and her first novel, “Mass Murder”, a paranormal mystery set in a Catholic monastery. Check out her website and writing blog at http://www.bohartink.com/, or follow her on Twitter.