Saint's Gate: Sharpe & Donovan Series Book 1

Saint's Gate: Sharpe & Donovan Series Book 1

3.9 56
by Carla Neggers

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Two people, isolated by their pasts. An obsessive killer who will force them together. Welcome to Saint's Gate.

Emma Sharpe is summoned to a Maine convent, partly for her FBI art crimes work, partly because of her past with the Order. At issue is a mysterious painting of Irish lore and Viking legends. But when the nun who contacted her is


Two people, isolated by their pasts. An obsessive killer who will force them together. Welcome to Saint's Gate.

Emma Sharpe is summoned to a Maine convent, partly for her FBI art crimes work, partly because of her past with the Order. At issue is a mysterious painting of Irish lore and Viking legends. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.

Colin Donovan is one of the FBI's most valuable deep-cover agents. Back home in Maine after his latest mission, a contact clues him in to an intrigue of murder, international art heists and long-held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—Emma Sharpe is at the center of it all.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This novel of suspense from Neggers (Cold River) uneasily combines Maine artists, Irish saints, Viking artifacts, convent life, and the FBI. Puzzled by a mysterious painting that may hold clues to the whereabouts of an original Rembrandt, art conservationist Sister Joan Mary Fabriani invites FBI special agent Emma Sharpe, a former novice at the Sisters of the Joyful Heart convent, to the tiny religious order on the Maine coast to investigate. When Sister Joan is murdered and the painting disappears, Emma draws on her family's background in art investigation to find the cause. The search leads her to Ireland, where her grandfather, the founder of Sharpe Fine Art Recovery, is attacked. Colin Donovan, an FBI undercover agent with local roots, is put on the case as well, and sexual sparks soon fly. Neggers shows her skill in the feisty couple's romantic skirmishes, but the charm of their byplay can't compensate for the far-fetched backstory, chunks of unnecessary filler, and predictable denouement. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"A fast-paced, action-packed tale that will appeal to fans of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner."
-Library Journal

"Readers will be turning the pages so fast their fingers will burn.... A winner!"
-Susan Elizabeth Phillips on Betrayals

"Brimming with Neggers's usual flair for creating likeable, believable characters.... She delivers a colorful, well-spun story..."
-Publishers Weekly on The Carriage House

"[Carla Neggers's] books have that magical ingredient too-the ability to pick me up and transport me into another world for a few hours...a few days..."
-M. J. Rose, international bestselling author of The Hypnotist

"Well-drawn characters, complex plotting and plenty of wry humor are the hallmarks of Neggers' books. Jo and Elijah are very well matched, and readers will root for their romance."
-RT Book Reviews on Cold Pursuit

"Showcases the award-winning Ms. Neggers' unique blend of quirky humor, sizzling romance and engrossing suspense, which combine to produce irresistibly entertaining novels."
-RT Book Reviews on Finding You

"A haunting romantic story." -Bookreporter on The Widow

"Worth the wait. Well plotted, with Neggers' trademark witty dialogue and crackling sexual tension, this is a keeper."
-RT Book Reviews on The Whisper

"Nobody does romantic suspense better than Carla Neggers. The Whisper is big, bold and stunningly effective. Evidence of a writer at the absolute top of her game still climbing higher."
-Providence Journal on The Whisper

Library Journal
FBI agent Emma Sharpe, an art expert from a family of art experts, is called to view a painting at a convent on the Maine coast, the request coming from a nun with connections to Emma's past. When the nun is murdered and the painting mysteriously disappears, enter deep undercover FBI agent Colin Donovan, who's been pointed in Emma's direction by her concerned boss and a certain interfering priest. The attraction that Emma and Colin feel for each other is neither smart nor convenient as their search for the killer takes them to Ireland for answers that seem to lead to more questions. VERDICT With a great plot and excellent character development, Neggers's (Cold Dawn) latest thriller, the first in a new series, is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of romantic suspense that will appeal to fans of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner.—Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City/Cty. P.L., MO

Product Details

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Sharpe & Donovan Series , #2
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Read an Excerpt

Emma Sharpe steeled herself against the sights and sounds of her past and kept up with the nervous woman rushing ahead of her in the dense southern Maine fog. They came to a tall iron fence, a folk-art granite statue of Saint Francis of Assisi glistening with drizzle among purple coneflowers and cheerful golden daylilies by the gate.

The little bird perched on Saint Francis's shoulder still had a couple of missing tail feathers.

Sister Joan Mary Fabriani stopped at the gate. On the other side was the "tower," the private work space where the Sisters of the Joyful Heart performed their restoration and conservation work. In violation of convent protocol, Sister Joan had escorted Emma onto the convent grounds without having her first stop at the motherhouse to register as a visitor.

And a visitor she was, in boot-cut jeans, a brown leather jacket, Frye boots and a Smith & Wesson 442 strapped to her left calf.

"The gate's locked," Sister Joan said, turning to Emma. "I have to get the key."

"I'll go with you."

"No. Wait here, please." The older woman, who'd spent the past thirty years as a member of her order, frowned slightly at the gate, which crossed the meandering stone walk two hundred yards from the main gate at the convent's entrance. "I thought I left it unlocked. It doesn't matter. I'll only be a few minutes."

"You're preoccupied, Sister," Emma said. "I should go with you."

"The shortest route to the tower is through an area restricted to members of our community here."

"The meditation garden. I remember."

"Yes. Of course you do."

"No one will be there at this hour. The sisters are busy with their daily work."

"I'm in no danger, Emma." Sister Joan smiled, her doe-brown eyes and wide, round face helping to soften her sometimes too-frank demeanor. "It's all right if I call you Emma, isn't it? Or should I call you Agent Sharpe?"

Emma noted an almost imperceptible bite in Sister Joan's voice. "Emma's fine."

With a broad hand, Sister Joan brushed a mosquito off the wide, stretchy black headband holding back her graying dark hair. Instead of the traditional nun's habit, the Sisters of the Joyful Heart wore plain clothes; in Sister Joan's case a dark gray hand-knitted sweater and calf-length skirt, black tights and sturdy black leather walking shoes. The simple silver profession cross hanging from her neck and the gold band on her left ring finger were the only external indications that she was a Roman Catholic nun.

She looked pained. "I've already broken enough rules by having you here without telling anyone."

Sister Joan hadn't given any details when she'd called Emma in Boston early that morning and asked her to make the two-hour drive north to the convent, located on a small peninsula on a beautiful, quiet stretch of rock-bound Maine coast.

"At least give me an idea of what you want to talk to me about," Emma said.

Sister Joan hesitated. "I'd like to get your opinion on a painting."

As if there could be any other reason. "Do you suspect it's stolen?"

"Let me get the key and show you. It'll be easier than trying to explain." Sister Joan stepped off the walk onto the lush, wet grass, still very green late in the season, and looked back at Emma. "I want to thank you for not bringing a weapon onto the grounds."

Emma made no comment about the .38 tucked under the hem of her jeans. She'd left her nine-millimeter Sig Sauer locked in its case in her car outside the convent's main gate but had never considered going completely unarmed.

Without waiting for a response, Sister Joan followed the fence into a half dozen mature evergreens. The evergreens would open into a beautiful garden Mother Superior Sarah Jane Linden, the foundress of the Sisters of the Joyful Heart, had started herself more than sixty years ago in a clearing on a rocky ledge above a horseshoe-shaped cove. The sisters had added to it over the years— Emma herself had planted a pear tree—but the design remained essentially the one Mother Linden, who'd died almost twenty years ago, had envisioned.

As she lost sight of Sister Joan in the fog and trees, Emma stayed close to the tall gate. Even the breeze drifting through the evergreens and the taste of the salt in the damp air called up the longings of the woman she'd been—the possibilities of the woman she'd never become.

She pushed them aside and concentrated on the present. The morning fog, rain and wind would have attracted passing boats into the protected cove, one of the well-known "hurricane holes" on the Maine coast.

Watching guys on the boats when she was supposed to be in deep reflection and contemplation had been an early clue she wasn't cut out to be a nun.

Sister Joan, honest and straightforward to a fault, had always known. "You're an art detective, Emma. You're a Sharpe. Be who you are."

Emma touched a fingertip to a raindrop on Saint Francis's shoulder. The statue was the work of Mother Linden, an accomplished artist who'd have considered the absent tail feathers part of its charm as it aged.

The Sisters of the Joyful Heart was a tiny religious order, independently funded and self-sufficient. The twenty or so sisters grew their own fruits and vegetables and baked their own bread, but they also ran a shop and studio in the nearby village of Heron's Cove—Emma's hometown—and were skilled in art restoration, conservation and education. During the summer and early fall, the convent held retreats for art educators and conservators, as well as people who just wanted to learn how to protect family treasures. Various sisters were dispatched to Catholic schools throughout the region as art teachers. Hope, joy and love were central to their work and to their identity as women and religious sisters.

All well and good, Emma thought, but hope, joy and love hadn't prompted Sister Joan's call early that morning. Fear had.

"It's a personal favor," she had told Emma. "It's not FBI business. Please come alone."

Emma felt the cold mist gather on her hair, which she wore long now, and sighed at Saint Francis, the beloved early-thirteenth-century friar who had given up his wealth to follow a life of poverty. "What do you think, my friend?" She peered through the gate and made out a corner of the stone tower in the gray. "I know."

Sister Joan was afraid, and she was in trouble.

Meet the Author

Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, including her popular Sharpe & Donovan and Swift River Valley series. Her books have been translated into 24 languages and sold in over 35 countries. A frequent traveler to Ireland, Carla lives with her family in New England. To learn more and to sign up for her newsletter, visit 

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Saint's Gate 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
LMGardiner More than 1 year ago
A wonderful thrill ride of a story for mystery readers looking for adventure between the covers of a good book. The plot will keep you guessing and you'll fall in love with Emma and Colin and fear for them while they unravel this intricate mystery. I particularly enjoyed Emma's past and its connection with the mystery. WELL DONE!
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
While "Trust your faith. Let it guide you to act with strength, courage, and compassion" is good advice; it is not always easy to follow with a killer invades one's life, whether one is a nun, an FBI agent, or a priest. Emma Sharpe is an FBI agent and highly valued for her expertise in the field of art crime. For three years she'd been a part of the Sisters of the Joyful Heart convent, but left before taking final vows. The international, multimillion dollar art crime operations are often linked with gun trafficking, drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, fraud, extortion, and even terrorism. Emma is analytical and brings a unique perception to her work. While she can shoot straight and fight when needed, she is by nature thoughtful, reflective, contemplative, and prayerful. She needs her space at times to function at her best. When her friend Sister Joan asks for help on a matter at the convent, Emma goes and finds herself entangled in murder and theft. Events that happened long ago that may involve Emma's family as well as the convent and artists, long-dead, may be the cause of the upheaval at the convent. Colin Donovan, trying to recharge after a long undercover assignment as a FBI ghost agent, is a "Lone Ranger" type who likes his space. But, at the request of his friend, Father Finian Bracken, Colin gets involved with the convent case. It is on his "old stomping ground", just a short distance from his hometown. From his marine patrol days along the Maine coast, he is well acquainted with Heron's Cove and the convent. He and Emma square off at each other for a short time, but soon work together with a little encouragement from Emma's boss Matt Yankowski, who goes a long way back with Colin. The tangle of events from Dublin, Ireland to Maine keeps the adrenaline pumping. The many secondary characters and sub-plots help keep tensions high and emotions on full alert. Emma's grandfather and brother become a part of the tangled web as do the nuns. The flighty young artist Ainsley deAuberville, her deceased father, and her fiancé Gabe Campbell add to the tangled web with their connection to Emma's family and the convent. Carla Neggers' skill in foreshadowing and subtle clue-giving make suspense crackle like distant lightning that announces danger. Her characters come alive with their hang-ups, fears, past histories, and present needs. Father Finian Bracken is a character that intrigues with his connections and wealth in Ireland. The wide variety of characters make Saint's Gate throb with life, mystery, and suspense with humor wrinkled in that makes one smile. Ms. Neggers weaves bits of Viking lore, religious history, and art crimes into the immediate story of Emma and Colin as they ferret out a murderer and thief from the many possible suspects while they make a life-changing love connection that sizzles. The happy-ever-after is tenuous-not the usual and more a "happy for now", but who knows what the future holds? Saint's Gate is one for the bookshelf to be enjoyed again. Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Review by Shyla: It's been a long time since I enjoyed a mystery novel as much as I did Saint's Gate. Chocked full of well fleshed out characters, action and an interesting plot, this tale had me intrigued from the very first page. Ms Neggers did a bang up job of creating a setting that took on a life of its own. I was immersed in the small Maine town, its inhabitants and their secrets. Her usage of art and religion was a refreshing choice! The two interlaced, and mingled to create a unique journey I thoroughly enjoyed. The heroine Emma is a smart, intelligent, and independent FBI agent with a surprising past. She was once on a path to become a nun. Her connection to Sisters of the Joyful heart is what brings her back to the convent via Sister Joan who suspects something strange is afoot. When Sister Joan is murdered right under her nose many things are brought into question; including Emma's loyalty to her job. Our hero Colin is in town for rest, and relaxation. But as we know, there's no rest for the wicked. With his rugged good looks, love for the outdoor, and mysterious career Colin is an irresistible package, that's dangerous to the heart. When he's placed on to the case and asked to look after Emma they both discover an attraction that refused to be denied. Not used to letting anyone in, they struggle to fight the bond forming as they chase down leads. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves a good, thriller, or mystery. But if you're looking for heat this one may not be the one for you. The attraction between Emma and Colin is obvious, but the sexual encounters are closed door.
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this mystery romance. It has a great mystery that develops as the story progresses and delivers until the end. The characters were well developed and realistic. The romance is not overdone and progresses gradually and naturally throughout the story. It was a great read.
jef71 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book. It was will written. You did not know what was going to happen next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first Carla Nager's novel, and I like it. The main characters are multifaceted, and even the supporting ones are well-rounded. I like the mystery. I like the location. I like the people. Looking forward to #2.
harstan More than 1 year ago
At the Sisters of the Joyful Heart, Sister Joan Mary Fabriani asks FBI special agent Emma Sharpe to visit her. An art expert and former novice at the monastery, Emma agrees to see her art conservationist mentor. The Fed drops what she was doing in Jersey and heads to Maine to learn what troubled Sister Joan who wonders if Mother Linden hid an original Rembrandt for forty years. However just after she arrives with a cold greeting by her host, someone kills Sister Joan and the potential masterpiece is stolen. Emma teams up with undercover agent Colin Donovan who was asked by Father Finian Bracken to learn why a Fed was seeing Sister Joan. They soon follow clues involving art theft to Ireland where her grandfather started Sharpe Fine Art Recovery, but an unknown adversary seems to be one step ahead of them. This is a fast-paced romantic suspense starring two intriguing Feds falling in love at a time neither can afford the distraction as they work the case. Although the past seems over the top of Mt. Katahdin, sub-genre readers will enjoy the investigation as the bantering pair fuss, fight and fall in love. Reader will enjoy Saint's gate and helpfully have further Sharpe romantic mysteries in Maine and Ireland. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous 4 months ago
Attention grabber and holder!
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This is a good read. This is one to read outside of a book club for a great mystery and suspenseful time between the pages. I enjoy Carla Neggers and I'm always excited when I see she has a new book for her readers.
Susan60625 More than 1 year ago
I waited for the paper back release and it was well worth the wait!
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Staffer_Coffee_Time_Rom More than 1 year ago
Saint’s Gate has excitement and adventure on every page you turn. Romance arises amongst a conflict which makes for a bit more enjoyment. Colorful, well-rounded characters keep you guessing the real truth till the very end. Ms. Neggers is a talented author and again does not disappoint the reader. Matilda Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More
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