Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Sign of the Cross by Anne Emery

How did I ever miss this one?  Published in Canada in 2008, I won a copy in ECW Publisher's Shelf Monkey giveaway in May.  I'm so glad I got this first one in an ongoing series.  It's definitely going to be one I'll pursue to catch up on all seven now in print.

It has wonderful characters:  Montague (Monty) Collins, the only criminal defense lawyer in his law firm; Fr. Brennan Burke, Irish export with an angelic voice, and a love of good liturgical music; Maura MacNeil, Monty's estranged wife; and a large cast of supporting nuns, priests and admin ladies at the rectory and the school, and barristers at the law firm.  There are ex-girl friends, orphans, and poker buddies.  There are retired cops, current cops, bartenders, thugs, and disappointed parishioners. 

Burke has not led the most exemplary of celibate or vice-free lives, either before or after his ordination.  His Irish charm and matching temper often  put him into situations best described as "dicey."  However, when a young woman who had been employed at the Music School where Burke is the choir director is found murdered, the police immediately identify the good Father as the prime suspect.  Later, a second murder with the same MO and forensic evidence seals the matter as far as the police are concerned, leading them to describe him as a "serial killer."

Collins reluctantly agrees to take on Burke's defense, but cannot get Brennan to open up about anything in his past to help identify who could possibly be framing him, and when Brennan's insistence on testifying in his own behalf backfires, all hope seems lost.

The plot is multi-layered, there are many suspects and scenarios that present themselves along the way.  I especially liked the Canadian court setting.  I knew nothing about how the legal system works in Nova Scotia but Emery explains it well without becoming bogged down in minutiae.

This is a series that has caught my attention.  The delightful and well-drawn characters, the interesting and unusual (for me) setting, and the intricate plotting has me already searching out the next one in the series.  I noticed that they are also available in ebook format and just may load the next one on my Nook for our upcoming trip the end of the month.

Many thanks to ECW Press for sending a copy.  I love those petit paquets from our northern neighbors.

Title: The Sign of the Cross
Author: Anne Emery
Publisher: ECW Press (2008), Paperback, 329 pages
Genre: mystery - legal procedures
Subject: Murder, music, and Irish priesthood
Setting: Halifax Nova Scotia
Series: Collins-Burke Mystery #1
Source: Giveaway from the publisher
Why did I read this book now? I won it in a Shelf-Monkey giveaway and the subject matter attracted me.


  1. Halifax, but I weigh that against the fact that most fictional accounts of priests an the Church drive me insane....

    1. Caite, this priest is at times full of Irish blarney, so you might enjoy it.


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