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Prey for a Miracle (Sister Agatha Series #3) [NOOK Book]

Overview


Sister Agatha is an extern nun in the cloistered order at the Our Lady of Hope Monastery near a small New Mexican desert town. As such, Sister Agatha is the link between her cloistered sisters and the outside world. Usually this means running errands in the monastery's slowly dying car (dubbed the Anti-Chrystler) or their motorcycle, with Pax, the order's German Shepard, in the side car. But sometimes it means something a bit more -- like now when the diocese is upset by reports of a young girl whose parents ...
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Prey for a Miracle (Sister Agatha Series #3)

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Overview


Sister Agatha is an extern nun in the cloistered order at the Our Lady of Hope Monastery near a small New Mexican desert town. As such, Sister Agatha is the link between her cloistered sisters and the outside world. Usually this means running errands in the monastery's slowly dying car (dubbed the Anti-Chrystler) or their motorcycle, with Pax, the order's German Shepard, in the side car. But sometimes it means something a bit more -- like now when the diocese is upset by reports of a young girl whose parents claim is receiving visitations from the Virgin Mary and providing insight into future events. Wanting neither to ignore a real miracle, nor give credence to what might be merely an attempt to defraud the faithful, they ask Sister Agatha to investigate. But her inquires are soon complicated when the girl herself disappears, apparently having been kidnapped, and Sister Agatha will need more than faith to bring her home.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the Thurlos' charming but imperfect third cozy involving New Mexico's Our Lady of Hope Monastery (after 2004's Thief in Retreat), Sister Agatha is charged with looking after Natalie, an eight-year-old whose mother lies in a coma after a bad car wreck. Sister Agatha and her buddy, Sheriff Tom Green, suspect that the wreck was no accident someone is after Natalie and her mom. If protecting a precocious little girl isn't enough to manage, Sister Agatha is also burdened by her convent's financial problems. The order is short on cash and needs to replace the roof, a subplot actually more engaging than the somewhat thin mystery surrounding Natalie and her mom's stalker. Indeed, the Thurlos could have provided a more plausible lineup of suspects and a less predictable ending. Still, Sister Agatha, with her winsome ways and no-nonsense faith, is sure to delight readers. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This squeaky clean and straightforward suspense story is the third in a series featuring one of the extern (that is, public-meeting) nuns in a contemplative monastery in New Mexico. Sister Agatha, who drives a Harley with a sidecar that is frequently inhabited by either her former police dog, Pax, or Sister Bernarda, a former Marine, regularly lends assistance to the local sheriff. In this outing, a little girl who insists that she can see angels must go into hiding at the monastery after her mother is badly injured in a suspicious car accident. Subplots include the nuns' entering the baking business to pay for their new roof, a tabloid news reporter's trying to track down the child because of her putative connection to angels, and an ex-con from a previous case that Sister Agatha cracked. The pace is sprightly and rides along on the waves of almost-probable events. There are plenty of admirable characters who will appeal to teens who like old-fashioned cozies or inspirational fiction. The lives of the contemplative sisters are portrayed realistically and accessibly, adding a dimension for those who may wonder what such a life must be like in the modern world. Readers don't need to know or care about Catholicism in order to be engaged by Sister Agatha's adventures or the ethical issues that she and other characters raise.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
On a dark and stormy New Mexico night, Jessica Tannen's car is forced off the road and her daughter disappears. Sister Agatha, an uncloistered nun and former investigative reporter (Thief in Retreat, 2005, etc.), hops on her Harley with her former police dog Pax to join the search for Natalie Tannen. They find her hiding in an abandoned church and take her to the monastery for safekeeping. Since revealing that she's talked to an angel, Natalie's been stalked by tabloid reporters and desperate people seeking help. The church officials think it's all just her imagination, but at least some of the nuns believe in Natalie's angel. While her mother remains in a coma, Natalie stays hidden away, helping the nuns raise money to pay for a new roof for the monastery. As the roofers strip off the old roof, the nuns work night and day to make their famous Cloister Cluster cookies, which are selling like hotcakes. Following her nose for news, Sister Agatha is hoping to help Sheriff Tom Green crack the case. Among the suspects are some of the people who had asked Natalie's help in vain. Even her long-absent father may be back in the picture. It takes all Sister Agatha's sleuthing skills and a little help from above to solve this one. Slim pickings in the mystery department, and definitely not for the faithless.
From the Publisher
“A richly textured world… you’ll believe in Prey for a Miracle!”

—Julia Spencer Fleming, Agatha Award–winning author of All Mortal Flesh 

 

“Sister Agatha is sure to delight readers…with her winsome ways and non-nonsense faith.”—Publishers Weekly

“Razor-sharp.”

Booklist

 

“Sister Agatha will make you a believer.”

Baltimore Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429909600
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2007
  • Series: Sister Agatha Series , #3
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 145,656
  • File size: 257 KB

Meet the Author


Aimee and David Thurlo are the authors of numerous novels, including Bad Faith and Thief in Retreat featuring Sister Agatha. They live in Corrales, New Mexico.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

Silence defined the monastery---except during recreation. the hour before Compline, the concluding canonical hour of the Divine Office, was a time of community togetherness. Pictures and letters from family and friends, parts of the lives they'd each left behind, were passed around freely. Over the years, the names and faces had all become part of a bigger family here at Our Lady of Hope Monastery.

Tonight, Sister Maria Victoria had photos of her new baby niece to show, and Sister Gertrude had received a letter announcing that her cousin had entered the priesthood. On the outside, these bits of news might have been glossed over, but here they were savored and relished as gifts from an ever present and good God.

Sadness, too, was more bearable a burden when shared by the entire community. After Sister Clothilde's sister had passed away at another monastery few months ago, everyone had taken part in an all-night vigil. Through their shared prayers, the pain of one had been borne by many shoulders, lessening its crushing weight.

Now laughter rose easily among them almost in defiance of the storm brewing outside. The windowpanes rattled as the wind whistled through the cracks, announcing the rain that would quickly follow. As was the custom among long-time New Mexico residents, the nuns walked to the open back door to watch the rare event. Pax, the monastery's large, white German shepherd, remained behind, content to sleep through the commotion.

"We're in for a gully washer tonight," Sister Bernarda said. The former Marine turned nun had a delivery that made even the simplest of sentences sound like an order.

"This should help ease the drought a bit. It'll be a blessing, providing the rain doesn't evaporate before it hits the ground," Sister Agatha said quietly. Truth was, she didn't like thunderstorms.

"This storm will bring a blessing," Sister Ignatius said excitedly. "Look! Do you see it?"

"What?" Sister Agatha asked, glancing over Sister Bernarda's massive shoulders.

"There! That cloud looks just like an angel with huge, feathered wings. This morning at prayer I asked the Lord to send us an angel as a sign that the monastery's financial problems would soon be over, and there it is! And just to make it perfect, the angel has appeared to us in the middle of a storm!"

Sister Agatha looked up at the clouds and tilted her head, trying to discern the shape Sister Ignatius was describing. As she brought her cheek down and pushed it against her shoulder, a form began to take shape---but she couldn't swear that it wasn't a giant rabbit.

Sister Bernarda looked at Sister Agatha and shrugged.

"Maybe the angel won't to appear to us externs," Sister Agatha told Sister Bernarda with a ghost of a smile.

"It's the price we pay for not taking a vow of enclosure---we become too affected by the world," Sister de Lourdes, their newest extern said, joining them.

"I suppose it's all in how you look at it, but in my opinion we externs have the best job of all," Sister Agatha said with complete conviction. Extern nuns were part of the contemplative life of the monastery where prayers and a lifetime spent in service to God defined who and what they were. But externs also ventured into the outside world. The monastery relied on them to run errands, escort a plumber or an electrician onto the premises, and to be the liaison between the monastery and the community. It was that duality Sister Agatha loved the most, and she couldn't imagine any greater blessing.

Sister Agatha glanced at Sister de Lourdes. The petite young woman had been known as Celia just two short years ago, a postulant headed for a life as a cloistered nun. But now she was an extern nun, having placed her own wishes aside to answer the needs of the monastery. Celia had been her godchild, and Sister Agatha hadn't exactly welcomed her into the monastery. But there was no doubt that Sister de Lourdes's calling was genuine.

Sister Agatha's musings were interrupted when the bell announcing Compline rang. The sisters stepped away from the door, heads bowed, and began walking silently toward chapel. The stillness that surrounded them now as they entered the chapel provided a comfort all its own. It was the serenity and quiet that helped make Our Lady of Hope Monastery a spiritual fortress. Body and soul had to be at peace before the heart could attain union with the Divine.

As they began chanting the Divine Office, Sister Agatha felt a clear sense of God's presence. Compline meant "to make the day complete" and that was precisely what the liturgical hour did. The prayers being chanted now were a daily reminder that He whom they served was faithful.

"And under His wings shall thou find refuge." The words of the psalm said it all. Here at Our Lady of Hope, she'd found the "pearl of great price" that had required her to give up everything to possess it. A woman surrendered much when she answered God's call. Turning her back on the right to have children and a family of her own, Sister Agatha had embraced another life, one where the spirit was fed daily, but human needs had to be set aside. Yet this was precisely where she belonged.

After Compline, the Great Silence began. Except for a grave emergency, it wouldn't be broken until after Morning Prayers the following day. Listening to the storm raging outside, Sister Agatha lingered in chapel after the cloistered sisters had left. The two other externs, whose duties often prevented them from having time for silent meditation, had also chosen to remain.

Sister Agatha's gaze focused on the sanctuary light flickering over the tabernacle. The flame was a symbol of the living presence there---of the One they loved. Though rain continued to fall outside and the rumble of thunder shook the windows, the menacing gloom couldn't disturb the blessed serenity of their chapel.

As the rain peaked in intensity, Sister Agatha heard one of the branches of the cottonwood tree outside hit the roof with a heavy thud. Flat roofs---old flat roofs---had a tendency to leak, particularly during downpours like the one they were experiencing now. She made a mental note to check things out tomorrow morning.

Focusing once again on her prayers, Sister Agatha's gaze shifted to the statue of the Blessed Mother. The stand of votive candles before it cast a maze of dancing shadows on the wall, but it was the liquid shimmer there that drew her to her feet and in for a closer look.

As Sister Agatha reached the far corner, her fears were confirmed. Water was trickling down from the ceiling. The light from the candles played on the drops, making them sparkle with a benign grace that was dangerously deceptive. A water leak here in the chapel could do untold damage.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning her head, she saw Sister Bernarda standing there with a worried frown. Sister de Lourdes approached a moment later from the sacristy, flashlight in hand. After using a bright light to examine the rivulets of water running to the floor, Sister de Lourdes pointed to the ceiling, which was bowed slightly in one section. Sister Bernarda looked back at Sister Agatha and, without breaking the Great Silence, pointed with her thumb toward the chapel doors.

It was obvious that she wanted to go up to the roof now and not wait until morning. Sister Agatha nodded in agreement. The water would have to be drained immediately to prevent the ceiling from collapsing.

Sister Agatha went to the front doors and stepped outside. Lightning was only visible behind the mountains now, and there was no more rain. The downpour had been typical of New Mexico storms---impressive but short-lived.

Sister de Lourdes and Sister Bernarda came out to join her a moment later. After seeing that the canales, the protruding gutters, were clogged and the water wasn't draining properly, Sister Bernarda and Sister de Lourdes followed her lead and walked to a storage shed to retrieve a long ladder and more flashlights.

Once the ladder was in position, Sister de Lourdes climbed up while Sister Bernarda held it steady and Sister Agatha aimed a flashlight. But as Sister de Lourdes reached the highest safe rung, it was clear she was too short to hoist herself up onto the roof.

Sister Agatha took a deep breath then signalled for Sister de Lourdes to come down. A few minutes later, trying to ignore the way her arthritic joints screamed with pain in this kind of weather, Sister Agatha stepped onto the ladder. Sister Bernarda's fear of heights was something she'd never quite mastered, and making her climb up now with only the glow of a flashlight for guidance seemed uncharitable. It was up to her.

Sister Bernarda tapped her on the leg, signalling for her to come back down. Sister Agatha came off the ladder and stepped away. Before she could figure out what was going on, Sister Bernarda grasped the sides of the ladder and climbed up.

With a sigh, Sister Agatha helped Sister de Lourdes steady the ladder and aim the flashlights. So many people thought that they lived loveless lives here in the monastery, but she'd seen more genuine affection since her arrival at Our Lady of Hope than she'd ever known on the outside. Love here often took the form of small, selfless acts of courage like what Sister Bernarda had just done.

Sister Agatha placed her flashlight in a pocket, forced her swollen hands to grip the sides of the ladder, and climbed up to join Sister Bernarda. Two could work faster than one. As she hoisted herself up onto the roof, she saw Sister Bernarda's grateful smile.

The canales were clogged and blocked by branches, leaves, and plant debris.

Oblivious to the light drizzle that had started, they cleared the canales and soon were ready to go back down. Sister Agatha went first. Sister Bernarda was a large woman and it would take two of them on the ground to steady the ladder for her.

Once the signal was given, Sister Bernarda went down slowly, feeling her way with each step, but as her foot touched the last rung of the ladder, she slipped and fell unceremoniously to the ground.

Hearing Sister Bernarda moan softly as she reached for her ankle, Sister Agatha looked over quickly at Sister de Lourdes. The younger nun nodded and ran inside to search for Sister Eugenia. The infirmarian was needed now.

Sister Bernarda struggled to her feet and, grudgingly accepting Sister Agatha's help, hobbled back inside the chapel. As they stepped through the massive wooden doors and entered the cloistered side, Sister Eugenia suddenly appeared, pushing an empty wheelchair.

Sister Agatha recognized it instantly as the one Sister Gertrude had been using since her second heart attack. Here, everything was shared as the need arose.

Seeing the wheelchair, Sister Bernarda took a wobbly step backward and shook her head in protest. However, Sister Eugenia's formidable stare left no room for objections. Mortified, Sister Bernarda sat down and allowed herself to be wheeled out of the chapel.

As soon as they entered the infirmary, Sister Eugenia spoke. "The vow of charity takes precedence over the vow of silence, so speak freely and tell me what happened," she said.

"It was my fault," Sister Bernarda whispered, making sure her voice didn't carry. "I was so relieved to be close to the ground again that I hurried---and slipped."

Sister Eugenia took off Sister Bernarda's alpargates, the rope soled sandals they all wore, then removed her wet woolen sock. As she did, they all saw the tattoo above her ankle that read, semper fi. The dagger between the words almost looked like a cross.

Seeing it, Sister Eugenia laughed. Noticing the uncomfortable look on Sister Bernarda's face, she added, "I'm sorry, Your Charity. I just didn't expect the tattoo."

Sister Agatha smiled widely. Somehow that didn't surprise her at all. "At least the words that go along with that tattoo seem appropriate to our life here, too. Do you have any others?"

"You'll never know," Sister Bernarda answered with a trace of a smile.

After rubbing ointment over the ankle area, Sister Eugenia stepped back to evaluate her work. "All you have is a minor sprain. The ointment will help the swelling and the pain," she said. Refusing to let Sister Bernarda leave the infirmary, Sister Eugenia led her to the cot. "Tonight, Sister, you'll remain here."

Assured that all was well, Sister Agatha stepped to the door and nearly collided with Sister de Lourdes. "I found some more leaks in the chapel," Sister de Lourdes whispered at the infirmary doorway. "I've placed buckets beneath them, and brought towels to absorb any splashing or spills."

"There's nothing more we can do tonight. We'll have to call in a roofer tomorrow. For now, you should go to bed. I have a feeling tomorrow will be a very long day."

Sister de Lourdes bowed her head and hurried silently down the corridor. Sister Agatha continued more slowly to her own room, known as a cell. She was incredibly cold and the wet fabric of her habit felt as heavy as chain mail. Quickly slipping into another dry habit, she looked wistfully at her bed, where Pax was snoring contentedly, then hurried back to the chapel.

Sister Agatha entered through the side door leading from the enclosure. Only candles illuminated the interior now, but even in the flickering glow she could see fresh leaks everywhere. She was nearly finished positioning more buckets beneath the drips when she heard a rustle of cloth from somewhere behind her. Glancing back, she saw Reverend Mother watching her.

Sister Agatha shook her head imperceptibly, letting the abbess know that the situation was grave. She was considering breaking the Great Silence and going up to talk to her when she heard a new plopping sound. Spotting a new leak near the second station of the cross, she hauled out another bucket from the sacristy and positioned it beneath the steady drip.

After wiping up the water that had collected there with a towel, she was ready to call it a night, but just then a loud ring sounded. It was the telephone in Reverend Mother's office, down the hall.

Sister Agatha's heart began to beat faster. There were only two phones in the monastery---one in the parlor, and a separate phone line in Reverend Mother's office. As their abbess, it was necessary for Reverend Mother to maintain her own link to the outside. Calls from the archdiocese and the Mother House usually went directly to her. But nothing except an all-out emergency would have caused that phone to ring at this hour. Glancing down the hall, she saw Reverend Mother hurrying to answer it.

Sister Agatha followed Reverend Mother to the office, ready to serve if needed and preparing for the worst.

Copyright © 2006 by Aimée and David Thurlo
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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    Prey for a miracle was a fun read!

    I'm looking forward to reading more from the Sister Agatha series. I liked the style of writing and wanted to keep reading to find out what happened.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Very enjoyable! Loved Sister Agatha!

    Storyline moved along very smoothly. Taught me things about the Catholic church I didn't know---I'm a Catholic. All the characters very human and people I could relate to. Hope there will be more books about Sister Agatha in the future! I bought all of them out thus far!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    best book in the Sister Agatha series

    Jessica¿s daughter Natalie claims she sees an angel who stopped a car that was about to run over a man in a wheelchair. The angel Samera told Jessica that her friend¿s house was in danger and if her friend wasn¿t watching, the house would have burned to the ground. The angel was right. Natalie made no secret of having an angel always by her side but the resulting media attention and the people begging Natalie to perform a miracle for them wore mother and daughter down. Threatening letters and phone calls made Jessica realize they would need to move if they are to have a peace. --- Jessica is on her way to her brother, a priest¿s church to give him something when a pick-up runs them off the road. Jessica is injured but before she falls into a coma, she tells Natalie to run. After an extreme search, Sister Agatha finds Natalie and brings her to the monastery as a safety precaution. Agatha vows to protect her at all costs while she tries to find the person who injured Jessica and who is seeking Natalie. --- This is the best book in the Sister Agatha series and one of the best books the Thurlos have written. Readers see how the nuns believe God watches over them at the same time Sister Agatha has to deal with the outside world in order to help Natalie who might actually see angels. Her faith allows her to take risks confident that God is with her. She is the one who figures out who the criminal is but not before he kidnaps Natalie and puts her in danger. PREY FOR A MIRACLE is a great ecclesial mystery reminiscent of the Father Dowling who done its. --- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted September 19, 2011

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    Posted June 26, 2010

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