Tuesday, May 7, 2013


There are mysteries—as in crime novels and whodunits—and then there are Mysteries, pertaining to larger issues of faith and the human quest for the Divine.

If you are interested in the intersection between the two, get ready for "Higher Mysteries," a panel discussion coming to the downtown library next week featuring our own Laurie R. King and three other crime-writing women on the topic, "Faith and Theology in Crime Fiction."

The event is the 2013 installment of the King Lecture Series, an annual program dedicated to the work of the late UCSC History and Comparative Religion professor Noel Q. King to promote dialogue between faiths. This year's lecture is actually a quartet of authors, a Mysterious Regiment of Women (or Regiment of Mysterious Women?), whose fictions are fueled by issues of religion and theology.

Sharan Newman writes the marvelously atmospheric Catherine LeVendeur mystery series set in medieval France. Once a novice under the famed abbess Heloise, Catherine investigates mysteries that often involve the delicate relations between Christians and Jews (the secret faith of Catherine's father) in twelfth-century France.

Zoe Ferraris lived for nearly a year in Saudi Arabia with her then-husband and his family of Muslim Saudi-Palestinians. Her novels set in the city of Jeddah feature a female lab technician in the coroner's office helping to solve crimes against women while battling prejudice and extreme religious conservatism in a culture where women's lives (and deaths) are shrouded in mystery.

In the novels of Julia Spencer-Fleming, ex-Army helicopter pilot Clare Fergusson becomes the first female Episcopal priest in a small town in upstate New York. While attempting to prove herself to more conservative members of her flock, she must also cope with her kindling attraction to the local (married) police chief, with whom she embarks on a series of criminal investigations.

And, of course, Laurie King's audacious and entertaining series introduces former theology student Mary Russell as protege, investigative partner, and ultimately wife to none other than Sherlock Holmes.

Sponsored by UCSC's Noel Q. King Memorial and Santa Cruz Public Libraries, "Higher Mysteries" takes place Tuesday evening, May 14, 7 pm, at the downtown branch of the SCPL at 224 Church Street.

Oh, and if you'd like to do a little prep reading to get in the mood (and who doesn't want another excuse to read?), here are some suggested titles:

Zoe Ferraris: Finding Nouf and City of Veils
Laurie King: A Monstrous Regiment of Women and A Darker Place
Sharan Newman: The Outcast Dove and Strong As Death
Julia Spencer-Fleming: In the Bleak Midwinter and Out Of the Deep I Cry

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