Holiday murders was chosen as the theme chosen for November by the Mystery Readers of Visalia. I picked The Good Friday Murder by Lee Harris, a book I'm delighted to recommend. Published in 1992, it is the first in Harris' holiday murder series featuring Christine Bennett, a former nun.
After being released from her vows, thirty-year-old Christine Bennett leaves the convent to live in a house she recently inherited her aunt. She also takes over the guardianship of her cousin, Gene, to whom she is devoted. He is a resident of Greenwillow, an institution for adults with "special needs" located some ten miles from Oakwood, New York where she is living.
While visiting her cousin, Christine learns that Greenwillow wants to move the residents into a newer, better facility and has made an offer on a house in town, but several of the townspeople are against the move. One of the residents of Greenwillow is James Talley, who along with his twin brother, Robert, had been accused of killing their mother some forty years earlier on Good Friday. At the time these twin savants were sent to different institutions and though never convicted, a cloud of suspicion still hangs over them. The townspeople have openly expressed fears that James Talley might kill again.
Christine wants the best for her cousin and the other residents, so she attends the town meeting. During the discussion, Christine naively proposes that a decision about the property be postponed. She suggests that if the Talley twins' guilt or innocence were proven, the problem would be solved. The people agree, if she will do the investigating. She accepts the challenge. Suffice to say, Christine saves the day, but not until the life of James Talley and her own are put in jeopardy.
By the end of the story the reader can't help but be fully invested in the well-being of these likeable characters. The smoothness and flow of the writing style, as well as the mystery, makes the book a page turner. I look forward to reading more of the series.