With Our Blessing
Jo Spain
Quercus 2017
531 pages

Released in Canada in advance of the second Inspector Tom Reynolds mystery by Jo Spain, With Our Blessing is a dark and somewhat claustrophobic cozy set in a convent operated by nuns who once ran a Magdalene laundry. Magdalene laundries, a very dark chapter in Irish history, are places run by the Catholic church where unwed mothers and supposedly wayward girls were sent for what was truly hard labor and mistreatment. This backstory is at the heart of With Our Blessing asa convent’s Mother Superior is found crucified with writing etched in her body and her tongue cut out in a Dublin park. Kindle: With Our Blessing: A Novel (Inspector Tom Reynolds Mystery)

Inspector Tom Reynolds and his team soon find themselves in the Limerick convent that once served as a Magdalene laundry. The weather (and supposed budgetary constraints) force Reynolds and his team to seek shelter with the dozen or so nuns still living in the convent.  Reynolds finds out Mother Attracta was disliked by almost all of the nuns so there is no shortage of suspects. Jo Spain is very good at characterization so the characters are strong and interesting and reader does not confuse one nun for another.

Other possible suspects are the women who were once unwilling residents of the convent and may have a grudge to settle. Another shocking revelation involving Father Seamus only adds to the layer of mystery and the violence that was visited upon the former residents. When another murder is committed, Reynolds is under pressure to find out who is out for revenge before another body turns up.

The reveal is quite something but in a cozy one expects the villain to have more visibility than what Jo Spain provides him or her, or at least I do. Then again, I am not a expert on the cozy so take that with a grain of salt.

Look for the second Inspector Tom Reynolds mystery by Jo Spain, Beneath the Surface, from Hachette Book Group in October 2017.