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False Witness: A Sister Agatha Mystery    by Aimée Thurlo & David Thurlo order for
False Witness
by Aimée Thurlo
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Travel to the Our Lady of Hope Monastery in Bernalillo, New Mexico, and find out what Sister Agatha, is up to this time in False Witness, the fourth adventure from the writing team of Aimée and David Thurlo.

The monastery - home to nine nuns whose secluded lives are dedicated to prayerful devotion to God - has fallen on hard times financially, the wiring in the buildings urgently needs to be replaced, and things have suddenly become more problematic when an apparently drunken driver has run his SUV into the now-broken monastery gate. Preliminary inquiries show that the vehicle had been stolen, the driver (who ran away from the scene of the accident) is unidentified and missing, two seemingly innocent teenage girls are somehow implicated in the incident, and Our Lady of Hope has no hope of finding anyone who will pay for the damaged gate and fence.

Sister Agatha, an extern, one of the otherwise cloistered nuns who is permitted to move about outside in secular society, has received a request to meet with John Guiterrez, the terminally ill owner of the winery that occupies a large parcel of land adjacent to Our Lady of Hope. He promises to pay $500 and, more importantly, sign over a significant portion of his property to the monastery, but there is a catch: Sister Agatha - a multi-talented nun with a reputation for being a skilled investigator - must find Guiterrez's long-lost niece, Angela Sanchez, a woman presumably still living in or around Bernalillo.

So, with the permission of the Reverend Mother, Sister Agatha, hoping to earn enough money to solve the monastery's immediate financial crisis, begins looking for Angela Sanchez, the woman who apparently will inherit Guiterrez's considerable fortune and property. To her astonishment, however, Sister Agatha makes some disquieting discoveries, and soon her life and the lives of others will be endangered as she coincidentally uncovers a series of clues leading to a cold case involving stolen money, cold-blooded murder, and some very surprising criminals.

A conventionally melodramatic cozy mystery - with a generous helping of religion and life in the monastery thrown into the mix - False Witness is the best of the Sister Agatha mysteries, and fans of this subgenre will not be disappointed. Readers looking for a bit more grit-and-grime in their down-and-dirty crime stories will probably find everything in the Thurlos' approach to mysteries a wee bit on the saccharine side of crime novels - but, then again, that's the nature of a cozy mystery, isn't it?

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