Sign of the Cross


Author: Anne Emery

Published: 2006

Genre: Mystery

About Sign of the Cross: A young woman has been murdered and all of the evidence points to Father Brennan Burke.

Series: The first book to feature Halifax lawyer Monty Collins.

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Review of Sign of the Cross

Soon, although I didn't know it yet, I would be involved in a case I would not be able to shake when I left the building. Or even when I closed my eyes to sleep. For the first time in my career I would be flying blind, unable to fathom what was behind the brutal murder of a young woman whose body had been carved with a religious sign and dumped beneath a bridge. And the client? My mother had a saying: “Be careful what you wish for.” For years — decades! — I had been longing for a client above the poor, uneducated, hopeless, heedless, unstable individuals I usually represented. A client more like ... more like me. Well, I was about to have one. Be careful what you wish for.

...from page 5

I have a bad habit of jumping into the middle of a mystery series (or worse, at the end) so I decided to do things right this time and start at the beginning. Which turned out to be a particularly good idea in this case since the main suspect/client is a recurring character in later books.

The cast: Monty Collins was a hard-drinking, blues-playing lawyer with a sharp-tongued, estranged wife. I didn't feel an instant connection with Monty as I did with John Sandford's Lucas Davenport and Giles Blunt's John Cardinal but I liked him. Father Brennan Burke was a hard-drinking, handsome Irish priest with an interesting past and a bad attitude. Burke made a fascinating suspect and he was by far my favourite character. Maura MacNeil was Monty's aforementioned sharp-tongued wife. I didn't like Maura at the beginning but I came to appreciate her sometimes startling bluntness. And the exchanges between her and Monty were usually amusing. All three characters had a dry sense of humour which I really enjoyed.

The story: The potential suspect list wasn't overly long and the murdered women weren't fine upstanding citizens. I wasn't completely surprised when the murderer was revealed but I was a bit surprised by the motivation.

The setting: Monty works for a law firm in Halifax and the story was mostly set in and around the city.

Bonus stuff: Emery starts each chapter with a snippet of song lyrics and offers a list of songs and artists for each book on her website. Also, "heartscalded" may be my new favourite word.

Sign of the Cross was an entertaining fast-paced mystery with a good cast of characters. I will definitely be reading everything in this series.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 16 April 2008.

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Added 16 April 2008.
Updated 07 September 2013.