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(Hardcover September 2011)
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CAUGHT AT THE CROSSROADS OF ART AND MURDER
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.
Read an Excerpt
Saint’s Gate, Carla Neggers
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 workspace 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 plainclothes; 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 rockbound coast above Kennebunkport.
“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 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.
Copyright © 2011 by Carla Neggers Permission to reproduce text granted by MIRA Books
Permission to reproduce text granted by MIRA Books. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.
—Library Journal on SAINT’S GATE
As a Main Selection in:
• Rhapsody (RBC)
Featured Alternate in:
• Doubleday Book Club
• Literary Guild
• Mystery Guild
• Doubleday Large Print
• Columbia House DVD and CD clubs
• And BOMC2 online only
IN THE MEDIA:
Savannahnow.com / Savannah Morning News
The story behind Carla Neggers’ ‘Saint’s Gate’ by Linda Sickler.
New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers is a people person, known for creating memorable characters and placing them in extraordinary situations.
Her latest book, “Saint’s Gate,” introduces readers to FBI agent Emma Sharpe, a former nun who is now an expert in art crimes, and Colin Donovan, a deep-cover agent. They are embroiled in a murder and art theft case that will take them from Maine to Ireland. Read More