With Christmas just a few days away, I thought I'd take a look at the Religious subgenre of cozy mysteries. Some cozies have characters of faith, but I don't consider them Religious Cozies. The Reverend Herb Jones is a supporting character (as are his cats Elocution, Cazenovia, and Lucy Fur) in the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown. For me, a Religious Cozy may not necessarily revolve around religion, but the protagonist is a member of faith.
Nuns seem to get involved in murder a lot! Two of my favorite series have nuns in the leading role. Sr. Mary Helen is an elderly, but very spry, nun who always carries around a mystery novel to read. What gives the Sr. Mary Helen Mysteries such verisimilitude, at least as it relates to the life of a religious, is that the author, Carol Anne O'Marie was herself, a nun. Both she and Sr. Helen belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Roman Catholic order. The series starts with A Novena for Murder and ended with the 11th book, Murder at the Monk's Table.
While the Sisters of St. Joseph work closely with people, some nuns are still cloistered, even nuns who face mysteries. Our Lady of Hope Monastery is a cloistered convent in New Mexico in the series by Aimee and David Thurlo. Sister Agatha serves as an extern sister, one who deals with the outside world. A former investigative reporter, Sister Agatha rides a motorcycle and has the help of a former police dog named Pax, who now lives at the convent.
If you want to go back in time, be sure to read the Sister Frevisse mysteries by Margaret Frazier. These books give a great look at the Medieval times, from a nun's perspective. They also give a jolly good mystery! The first in this series is The Novice's Tale.
Another of my favorite series sheds light on a whole religion, the
Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, also known as the
Shakers. Deborah Woodworth takes us back to the 1930's and introduces us
to Sister Rose Callahan in her series.
Nuns aren't the only clergy to be featured in mysteries, priests get involved as well. G.K. Chesterton wrote the Father Brown Mysteries in the first half of the twentieth century. Ralph M. McInerny wrote the Father Dowling Mysteries; remember the TV series with Tom Bosley? Ralph McInerny starred a nun in another series. He wrote the Sr. Mary Teresa Mysteries under the name Monica Quill. Who can forget Brother Cadfael, the 12th century monk and herbalist in the series by Ellis Peters?
It's not just those of Christian faiths who find murder. Ruby Rothman is a rabbi's widow in Eternal, Texas in the humorous Ruby the Rabbi's Wife Mysteries by Sharon Kahn. Harry Kemelman gave us the Rabbi Mystery series, following Rabbi David Small.
If you want to add a little religion to your reading, give one of these series a try!