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Notes on a ScandalWhat We Don't Know About ChildrenWhat's So Terrible About Swallowing an Apple Seed?When My Heart Joins the ThousandWhen We Were AnimalsWhen We Were OrphansWhere We LivedWhite HotWhite HousesWhy Did I EverWidowWild AwakeWild ChildWill@epicqwest.comWillful CreaturesWitWithout TessWolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYou or Someone Like YouYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know MeYour Body is ChangingYour Heart Belongs to MeZapZap
for Murder by Joan Albarella is the first in this series about a lesbian
Anglican priest, former Vietnam vet and of course, amateur detective. This
first adventure finds our heroine investigating deadly deeds at a small college
for Murder is set in the small college town of Sheridan in upstate New
York. Nikki Barnes is serving as the chaplain for St. David University. Nikki
has taken a leave of absence from the parish to grapple with her identity as
an Anglican priest in a denomination that rejects her identity as a lesbian. In
her capacity as chaplain, Dean Haslett has sent Nikki to the Universitys
Medical Center for PR damage control in the guise of comforting the staff and
patients after the on-site murder of the Centers beloved GYN/OB physician, Dr.
Shari Sullivan. Sullivan had a reputation for assisting any woman who desires
to have a child to deliver or adopt one. She also, much against the Centers
denominational stance, performs an abortion or two. While loved by most, she is
not liked by a few. This includes the Centers ambitious administrator, Dr.
Sheldon Peterson, Jr., his student lover and assistant, Lisa Holt, and his laky,
the physicians assistant/medical student, Eugene Blake, who is desirous of
becoming a GYN/OB himself. At the Center, Nikki becomes reacquainted with Max
Mullen, the detective in charge of the case. Nikki and Maxs friendship go back
to Vietnam where they both volunteered as pastoral chaplains to the dying. When
Nikki is bashed in the head after returning to her office from the Center, the
case becomes personal. Assisting Max in his investigation, Nikki discovers more
about the personal lives of her colleagues and students than she cares to know.
Can Nikki and Max find the murder before s/he strikes again?
Nikki Barnes as the priest/war
vet/professor of ethics is an exceedingly well-drawn character. She is
challenged again and again to reassess her identity as female priest and as a
lesbian in Christian ministry. Her issues are the headlines one can and does
read in the current issues of Christian
Century and Christianity Today.
Also, her ethical principles regarding teacher-student and clergy-counselee boundaries
are tested as first, Barrett Fairburn, one of her student and then Dr. Ginni
Clayton, a doctor she is asked to counsel turns intimate. Beyond Nikki, this
novel is filled with atypical characters. Dr. Peterson, the Centers
administrator, is gleefully wicked with his greedy schemes, his attempts to
cover the racial identity of his current wife by keeping a photo of a more
politically acceptable former wife on his desk, and his well-known affair with
his sexy student assistant. Barrett as the rich rebellious student who lusts
for Nikki is an interesting character. Barrett is more than just a rebel with a
getting into culinary school and Nikkis bed. She has a genuine caring
side that is there with chicken soup and yet knows how to intimidate ambulance
attendants when necessity demands it. (I hope I will see more of her in future
mysteries.) Shari Sullivan, only seen through others description is equally
interesting in her desire to sustain a desired pregnancy at any cost and her
willingness to buck the hierarchy to perform abortions.
for Murder is in fact more than a light novel read today and forgotten
tomorrow. It is neither lesbian eroticism with a plot thrown in for
cohesiveness nor is it a social rant with a lesbian Rambo beating up the bad
guys. There is plenty of action, plenty of plot and red herrings, and plenty
of sexual tension. It is the best of the lesbian mystery genre that I have read
to date. More than a mystery, however, this is an excellent novel about moral
and professional boundaries. This is a very realistic picture of the position
of female clergy and especially lesbian clergy in todays world. This mystery
offers grappling with the real moral, ethical, and social issues that challenge
Christian clergy as humans and sexual beings in a society that is often hostile
to them as moral leaders and as religious authority figures.
Joan Albarella is an Associate
Professor at the University of Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center. She is the author of
four books of poetry entitled: Mirror Me
(1973); Poems for The Asking (1975); Spirit and Joy; and the bilingual Mujeres, Flores, Fantasia. There
are two books in Nikki Barnes Mystery
Series" Agenda for Murder (1999)
and Call to Kill (2000). She was recognized
by J. Mark Press in the Reader Vote Award for Best Poem in Notable American
Poets; by the International Biographical Centre of England as International
Woman of the Year in 1992 and received the Twentieth Century Award of
Achievement in 1993. She also won the Oxner-Lytle Distinguished Service award
in 1999 and is listed in over twenty-two American and British Who's Who
collections. Joan is a member of Poets and Writers; Sisters In Crime; and the
Italian American Writers Association
for Murder is an excellent mystery and fictional treatise on ethics. This
is more than a light afternoons read. It challenges the reader to think about
issues for beyond the nature of crime. I highly recommend this book.
© 2002 Su Terry
Su Terry: Education:
B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from
Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral
Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from
New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual
Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the
United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at
Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested
in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area
of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.
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