Sister Cecile

Created by Winona Sullivan

Talk about your sister in crime! SISTER CECILE BUDDENBROOK is a Ferrari-driving, independently wealthy nun with a CIA background who serves God her way — with a P.I. ticket.

Her investigator’s licence hangs on the wall proudly beside a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel MadonnaA at the Convent of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Not quite as dopey as it sounds, perhaps. Her debut, A Sudden Death at the Norfolk Cafe, won the 1991 St. Martins’ Press/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. Then again, it also got quite a few not-so-hot reviews, including one with its full snark on from Publisher’s Weekly that pointed out that:

“Sister Cecile’s vocation is swept aside whenever it might conflict with sleuthing, and she rarely makes it back to the convent in time for vespers.”

And one wag on, Daniel L Pratt, concluded that

There’s no mystery in this book: all the criminals are identified as their crimes are revealed. There’s hardly any sleuthing, and most of it is done by the bad guys, not by Sister Cecile or her lawyer friend. There’s very little even in the way of suspense. How did this win the Best First Private Eye Novel Contest? The characterizations and settings are excellent, and one hopes that the author can somehow contrive to use them in a mystery one day.”

Still, the series must have been habit-forming enough for there to be three follow-ups, Dead South (1996), Death’s a Beach (1997) and Saving Death (2000), all set in the Miami area, where Cecile decides to move after the events related in her debut.

The author, by the way, is a former analyst for the CIA herself. I’m not sure if she was also a nun. But Alice Loweecy, who writes about Guila Falcone, an ex-nun turned P.I., was.



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply