Are we ready for our first Christmas Countdown mystery? Let’s celebrate 20 days until Christmas with:
The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore
Thoughts Before Reading:
This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new, but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.
It was suggested by my sister blog after she read it for book club. It isn’t a Christmas centered mystery, but does have important scenes that take place at Christmas, so I thought I would set it out for our first review.
Jillian Slater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.
Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.
And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.
As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.
However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.
It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.
With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.
Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?
Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?
Through in a life changing Christmas concert and last supper, and this book has everything.
Thoughts After Reading:
I didn’t love this book.
Jillian bugged me, a LOT. First she is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable. Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California. Jillian should have experienced this numerous times and know how to deal with it.
And what happened with the church?
So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?
There were also a lot of little details missing as Moore doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Jillian “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut? I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.
The mystery also isn’t very mysterious. I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal.
But there was something I did like: the characters.
The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.
They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.
This in itself made the book worth reading.
For more Christmas mysteries, go to Gingerbread Cookie Murder
For more mysteries not in a series, go to The Manchurian Candidate
For more Christian mysteries, go to Everbody Loved Roger Harlan
For more mysteries set in New Orleans, go to Triple Six