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Sign of the Cross: A Collins-Burke Mystery, Book 1 | [Anne Emery]

Sign of the Cross: A Collins-Burke Mystery, Book 1

Monty Collins is a sharp-tongued public defender who just wants to represent an upstanding character for a change. A priest with something to hide isn't quite what he had hoped for, but when the literate, arrogant, and tight-lipped Father Brennan Burke is implicated in the strange murder of a young woman, Monty doesn't just take the case - the case takes him. When Burke won't come clean, Monty is forced to play private detective, traveling into his client's past. Things look good for the case until another body is found....
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Publisher's Summary

Monty Collins is a sharp-tongued public defender who just wants to represent an upstanding character for a change. A priest with something to hide isn't quite what he had hoped for, but when the literate, arrogant, and tight-lipped Father Brennan Burke is implicated in the strange murder of a young woman, Monty doesn't just take the case - the case takes him. When Burke won't come clean, Monty is forced to play private detective, traveling into his client's past.

Things look good for the case until another body is found, marked with the same telltale sign as the first. Burke keeps mum, alternate suspects are ruled out, and the trial looks like it might be lost before deliberation. As if it couldn't get any worse, Monty's wisecracking ex-wife enters the picture, and she seems to know more about Burke than Monty does. Evidence and coincidence pile up, leading to a revelation neither Monty nor the listener see coming.

©2006 Anne Emery (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Halifax writer Emery will keep your already hot blood boiling thanks to this compelling legal drama." (Hour)

"A smart, elegantly written courtroom drama that will, I hope, be the first of many." (Calgary Herald)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 07-31-12
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 07-31-12

    trying to see the world with my ears

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    "Hybrid Mystery"

    First, what this is not: The title does not signal any kind of Dan Brown clone--no holy grail stuff. Also, when this novel was written (and where) a priest involved in scandal did not immediately mean a sex abuse story line - so don't pass on this for that reason. Also, this is not a faith-based novel; the series (though not this instalment) draws a little on the tradition of priest sleuth, but no affection for Catholic faith is necessary to like the priest character. Neither is this edge-of-seat stuff: There is no graphic violence and no explicit sex - any violence or sex necessary for the plot are obliquely described.

    This is a combination mystery-legal-detective procedural with elements of a traditional village cozy transplanted to an identifiable Canadian city, Halifax. The novel starts slowly but picks up after first quarter. It is somewhat predictable - but the mystery is secondary to character and setting (and establishment of story lines feeding the series).

    The narration is good but does not have good regional infections; however, generalized accents are much better than bad regional ones. Two quibbles with the narration: There are more priests with thick Irish brogues in the novel than in Halifax itself. And I hope the narrator gets a dictionary for some common theology terms mispronounced-- Other vocal feats seem very well done.

    I'll never get to Edinburgh with Rebus or Baltimore with Tess Monaghan, so I was glad to download this while in Halifax. The cityscape isn't as strong as in the classic detective/ city combinations, but adds interest. The Canadian legal context is laid out to be easily comprehensible to a non Canadian.

    I'll definitely be listening to the entire series.

    31 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 06-13-13
    cristina Somerville, MA, United States 06-13-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Tight little mystery/legal thriller"

    I was very surprised with how enjoyable this little mystery was. I had never heard of the author or the series. Read it based on the reviews of two Audible readers I follow. Well, thank you! I just finished it and already downloaded the second in the series!

    Monty Collins is a sharp tongued lawyer with an estranged wife who has an even sharper tongue. They defend a priest accused of murder and for a while neither you nor his attorney are quite sure whether Father Burke is guilty or not. The character development is very good, making even the mystery secondary to the players. But the mystery is quite good. You are given enough of the pieces to solve it -- and Anne Emery wraps the whole thing very nicely, making it just surprising enough.

    Have a bit of patience at the beginning. There are phrases to the effect of "little did I know how wrong I was," or "I would come to regret those words soon enough" (not direct quotes, but this kind of unnecessary foreboding) a tad too often. However, once the story gets going, Ms. Emery's writing seems to get better as well. I had a hard time putting it down towards the end.

    I thought Christian Rummel's narration was great. Yes, some of the Irish priests were a bit much -- but what could he do? They are meant to have Irish accents and he had to separate them from each other, so some do go a bit over the top. He made up for that minor fault with everything else -- even managing to make Monty's wife sound sharp tongued but likable (something that I have found is often hard for male narrators reading a woman's voice).

    Like I said, I've already downloaded the second in the series (I am so happy when I find a new author who has a SERIES out already!). It's a testament to the character development that I am looking forward to finding out what happens to THEM as much as to the next mystery!

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Stillwater Lake, NS, Canada 01-08-14
    Dave Stillwater Lake, NS, Canada 01-08-14 Member Since 2008
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    "WOW! Quite a surprise!"

    I fell upon Anne Emery when searching for a good audible book. I read her latest and enjoyed it so much I started back to Book 1. I enjoyed this book even more. Apart from being enthralled by the intricacies of this modern 'whodunit' I was quite fascinated by the development of the relationship between Father Burke and Monty Collins.
    This is a solid mystery situated in Halifax, NS and it relies heavily on the Nova Scotian culture. Emery creates and develops strong secondary characters which makes the book that more interesting. Christian Rummel is excellent as he portrays all the people - men, women, Irish, American, Canadian as well as young boys and girls.
    Certainly worth the credit.
    Now on to the next Emery book is the series.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W.H. Eerbeek, Netherlands 09-02-12
    W.H. Eerbeek, Netherlands 09-02-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Surpisingly good"

    Always great to find a new series to get into. And after book 1 I am certainly looking forward to reading all the other books in the series.
    Compliments to the narrator. I loved the Irish accent!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Minneapolis, MN, USA 08-27-12
    Kathleen Minneapolis, MN, USA 08-27-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Exciting debut novel and series."

    Monty Collins was a legal aid criminal lawyer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when a friend convinces him to join a private firm and defend criminals there for much more money, of course. But Monty is jaded. Most of his clients are guilty as charged and he has to try to get them off anyway. He’s gotten to the point where he automatically assumes any client he gets is guilty, and he wishes just once to defend an upstanding character. Well, be careful what you wish for. His friend and partner at the law firm introduces him to a priest who works with youth, where one of the assistants is murdered. A former policeman, also a friend of Monty’s, believes that this priest murdered the woman. Monty’s partner does not believe it and wants Monty to dig around and get information in advance so that if the priest is charged, they can defend him. Father Burke is arrogant and keeps things from his lawyer, just like all his guilty clients do, Collins thinks. But ultimately the police don’t have enough to charge him and he isn’t brought up on charges. But things don’t end there. Another woman turns up dead. This time there is a clearer motive connecting her to the priest. She is step-mother to one of his favorite pupils, and because of her negligence, the child is killed in a car accident. Both women had a cross drawn above their hearts and initials carved into the right side of the chest-IBR. Collins believes that the roots of the crime belong in Father Burke’s past and that someone is setting him up. So, before and during the trial, and after his initial conviction, Collins, mostly without Father Burke’s help, continues to search the priest’s life to figure out who hated him enough to set him up. This is an exciting book with lots of court proceedings and red herrings thrown in. I’ll certainly look forward to the next book in this series.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John tallevast, FL, United States 09-24-13
    John tallevast, FL, United States 09-24-13 Member Since 2011

    List of favorite books: Woodcutter - Reginald Hill, Consent to Kill, First Deadly Sin - Lawrence Sanders, Sniper Elite - Scott McEwen

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    "Maybe even a 4.5"

    I really enjoyed this story... Anne Emery put together an amazing cast of characters... They are Imperfect in nature - But not to the extreme. I have to credit the narrator christian Rummel (One of my new favorite narrators) He brings Burke to life with a great Irish accent.
    If he had Burke's character and voice, read a menu - I probably would have enjoyed it. The story did intrigue me as well. This is my first Anne Emery book - And after listening to this - I went and got the 4th book in the series because 2 & 3 did not great reviews by others. I enjoyed that one as well and probably would have enjoyed 2 & 3...... 1 & 4 have a little bit of everything in them. Murder - Mystery - Theology & Law

    I will probably get more....... John

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 08-31-14
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 08-31-14 Member Since 2010

    Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.

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    "OK, But Just OK."

    First off, Christian Rummel is terrific. While he does Emery's entire ensemble wonderfully, he's particularly effective in creating female characters.

    But my problem wasn't in the presentation of these characters… who are quite fully created with resonant personalities… No, the problem I had was that I didn't like any of these people, particularly the lead priest. I know… I know… people are complex. And Father Brennan Burke kept getting complexer and complexer (!).. to a point that went beyond his annoyance to his attorney Monte Collins… To the point where he annoyed me. And Emery surrounded Burke with equally annoying colleagues. Grumble.

    I don't like to pay to be annoyed. But maybe it takes a really talented writer to do that, huh? So, I'm not sure if I'll try another Anne Emery novel or not. At this point, probably not.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. O. Pardue Atlanta, GA United States 04-24-14
    L. O. Pardue Atlanta, GA United States 04-24-14 Member Since 2010

    I love to read books set in interesting places or historical settings. I especially love mysteries and thrillers.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Audible Reviewers I Follow Led Me to this Series"

    After several hits and misses, I have discovered about a half-dozen Audible reviewers that I trust for enhancing my choices on the next mystery / legal / police procedural series to try. I am not sure I would have been drawn to Anne Emery's series without all of them raving about this audio-book. I owe these reviewers a great debt because this mystery story surprises you with its warmth and originality.

    With this book you get a solid mystery, smart attorney, modern family life, lovely music, theology, eccentric characters, wit, Nova Scotia, and my favorite - Father Brennan Burke. I don't want to reveal much, because it is too much fun to discover as you listen. Instead, if you enjoy a thoughtful, sophisticated mystery series, trust my reviewers -- they know what they are talking about. Try this audio-book next.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathi 02-02-14
    Kathi 02-02-14 Member Since 2010

    Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent book in every way!"

    So I began listening to this yesterday, for about the first hour believing this would be a solid "4" (stars) on everything. Then in about the 2nd or 3rd hour--I realized I was hooked in a big way, and at 2am this morning, still wide awake listening, I understood that this was an Exceptionally Good Book.

    Sometimes (in my own mind, at least) I separate out whether a book is going to be a serious novel--requiring a sort of deep and intent listening, or a lighter mystery--which is an easier read. This book, while certainly a mystery, was a "Deep Listen" experience. It has a good mystery, but it is a fascinating exploration of character.

    Monty Collins is an attorney in Hailfax who is asked to take on the case of a priest who (at the time) is possibly going to be arrested for a murder. He is somewhat put-off by the priest who is not very forthcoming or friendly to him, but over the course of the book, he & Ftr Brennan Burke get to know each other very well indeed.

    This book depends upon development of each of the main characters. At first I sort of felt the author was spending too much time on this--peppering the beginning of the story with events that seemed casual, a bit too much time spent on showing incidents in which the two get to know each other better (such as playing cards together, getting drunk together in a social situation, a lot of interaction between Collins and his ex wife & kids, etc). I can only say that there came a point in the book where I completely understood how integral this all was to the whole.

    This book has a good mystery--but it would have been very simple and flat without all the ways the author draws the listener right into the places where things are happening and learning much of the back story. Although this is a story about a priest, I felt nothing but interest in the religious pieces that are seamlessly woven in--and important, since they help the listener know who & how complex this character is.

    One last point--I think the narrator was unusually good. In the beginning, I felt he was so-so, but as the plot developed, and the story depended upon understanding the deepest personality traits of the priest, it was his narration that truly brought it all alive. I think it would have been apparent reading the book, but he was a skillful actor in his ability to make me grasp some of the priest's most complicated aspects by his tone of voice, his range of emotions that clearly came across. I highly recommend this book--and will soon be moving on to its sequel.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Daytona Beach, FL, United States 04-20-14
    Anne Daytona Beach, FL, United States 04-20-14 Member Since 2007

    Tyler

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A thought provoking mystery Emery is a master!"
    Would you listen to Sign of the Cross: A Collins-Burke Mystery, Book 1 again? Why?

    after a long while I will- it is a cut above most of my books I beleve all high school or college students would benefit from reading this book.


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    no but more like engaged-


    What about Christian Rummel’s performance did you like?

    I like the uncommon and distinctive style of C.R.'s presentation- It would sway me towards buying another book as no other ever has.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Yes! there were some moving momentsI that are well worth remembering!


    Any additional comments?

    This book is credit worthy

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 15 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • susanna
    OKEHAMPTON, United Kingdom
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "A very current issue"

    This was my first Emery mystery. I'm a vicar and I enjoy books set in the church. This did not disappoint. I love the detective and grew to appreciate the priest. The characters were engaging and well developed through the story. The plot focused on the current church controversy over paedophilia and the issues around celibacy and was handled very well by the author, I thought. The ending was held in suspense to the end which kept me wanting to stop everything to listen awhile longer than I had! Christian Rummel is an excellent narrator.....clear and engaging. I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the series.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Enquiring Mind
    United Kingdom
    3/17/14
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    Performance
    Story
    "The adventure begins!"

    This series of books (7 of them as I write this review) are just good old-fashioned, well-written entertainment. Monty is a well-rounded and thought-out character who has depth and humour. Brennan is just about the most honest description of a Catholic priest I have read in fiction books. Human, flawed, honest, funny, deep and caring, Brennan is the counter-point to Monty's questing mind which longs to see justice done, no matter how long it takes him. If you like a good yarn with good characters and a decent plot, give these books a go. One thing I would say is that all of the books centre around a Catholic community whether it is in Canada, Ireland or Italy, so be aware of that going in. It is best to start off with this book as the first in the series. Although Anne Emery does an excellent job of making sure she gives enough information for those readers who have not read the series in order, it is more satisfying especially in regard to the relationship between Monty and Brennan, to start at the beginning. The icing on the cake for all these books is the narration by Christian Rummel. He does a superb job. It's no wonder there are literally dozens of books out there narrated by him, he is awesome.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. S. Mccarra
    Scotland
    5/25/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "When it all comes together"

    A good mystery means that you are keen to follow the path of clues and get to the end to see if you were right. But a good story carries you with the characters as they follow the path. Anne Emery has written a very good story. She takes you into the hearts and minds of the characters while they trace their journey past and into the present unraveling the effect that their words and actions have had on others. It reminds us of how simple words can have profound and long lasting effects. She has done this exceptionally well. Whilst a good story from an excellent author has often been spoiled for me by a poor narrator the choice in this case fitted perfectly. Christian Rummel toned his characters just right. It was like listening to a play at times. This is a book I will listen to again. Anne Emery and Christian Rummel are names I will search for again. What a good find this was! It all just came together.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • diana
    Surrey, United Kingdom
    5/4/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thoroughly enjoyed the joyed the journey"

    I thought the characters were well rounded and the injection of the dry humour made it a very enjoyable read. I also thought the narrator did a good job with all the different accents as I felt it bought the characters to life.

    I am looking forward to settling down with book 2 Obit to continue the adventure of Monty and father Burke.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • valb
    10/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Narrator brings characters to life"
    What made the experience of listening to Sign of the Cross: A Collins-Burke Mystery, Book 1 the most enjoyable?

    Excellent narration, each character's personality brought out by the narrator which could be missed if just reading to yourself


    What does Christian Rummel bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Narrator defines the personalities more than if reading to oneself. Great Irish accents and always knew which characters were speaking


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, the enjoyment was in looking forward to listening over a number of days


    Any additional comments?

    I note the same narrator has narrated the other books in the series therefore I look forward to listening to them

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mandie
    United States
    6/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fairly Predictable"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Take out the very annoying excerpts from poems/songs at the beginning of every chapter


    Has Sign of the Cross: A Collins-Burke Mystery, Book 1 put you off other books in this genre?

    Yes won't be buying any other books in this series


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Narrator was fine except for the very "posh" english accents used - was very annoying


    If this book were a film would you go see it?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • mollyeyre
    Leicestershire UK
    6/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Couldn't put it down"

    I loved the main characters in this novel, they were well defined and really likeable. The story was well crafted with a good ending, certainly I will look for more of the Collins - Burke series. My only disappointment was that some of the accents by the narrator were awful, especially the 'upper crust English toff' voice', however, apart from that it was quite nicely narrated, and I managed to switch off my dislike of the accent. Definitely worth reading!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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