Enter by the Narrow Gate ($14.95, 244 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-391-4) is the first book in a new mystery/thriller series by David Carlson featuring Christopher Worthy and Father Fortis. After a nun is murdered while on retreat in a monastery, an Orthodox monk solicits the help of his Detroit Detective friend who is in Santa Fe investigating a missing person’s case.
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“Carlson takes great care with his depiction of the state’s history and culture even as he fictionalizes and conflates small details for dramatic effect. Every character receives this respectful treatment as well [….] The novel, while grounded firmly in theological and spiritual themes, is not a Bible-based mystery but an exploration of humanity [….] Lest anyone perceive Gate as a quiet book focused solely on the contemplative and monastic, rest assured that the mystery takes a spectacular twist. Lives are endangered, and the threat of the apocalypse hovers over a few of the characters, putting others high in the mountains at risk.” Read more….
—Jennifer Levin for Pasatiempo, the New Mexican’s Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment, and Culture
“The novel’s prose is rich with religious references and imagery, which add to the unique depth of the novel….The rapport between Worthy and Fortis is easy and enjoyable, and the double case ensures that Enter by the Narrow Gate never slows in action.”
“The real joy in reading this mystery lies in Carlson’s exploration of how faith shapes reasoning and actions, rather than simply the action itself. Thus Father Fortis can proudly take his place in a list of religious detectives that includes Father Brown, Brother Cadfael and Rabbi David Small.” Read more….
—Rich Gotshall, The Daily Journal
“The cultures of New Mexico and its Native American population are explored in depth, offering many insights into the region and its inhabitants while providing a background for this intriguing mystery…. Enter by the Narrow Gate is the first novel in the Christopher Worthy-Father Fortis mystery series, and it gets these two characters off to a chilling but entertaining start.”
— Toni V. Sweeney for the New York Journal of Books
“I didn’t want to let go of Christopher and Father Fortis…. We need sleuths like this. They’re intelligent and not afraid to share that intellectualism with each other. How refreshing!”
—Christine DeSmet, award-winning writer and author of the Fudge Shop Mysteries
“A consistently compelling and entertaining read from first page to last…. highly recommended.” Read more….
—Mason’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review, October 2016
“Father Nicholas Fortis and Lieutenant Christopher Worthy are both out of their element the instant the two friends get to Santa Fe from the Midwest, and that ratchets up the suspense in this excellent mystery…. Author David Carlson has created a great team in Fortis and Worthy. The priest’s kind, open manner and knowledge of scripture and theology complement Worthy’s hard-nosed pursuit of killers.” —Rich Zahradnik, author of the Coleridge Taylor Mysteries
Enter by the Narrow Gate is Carlson’s first novel. His first work of nonfiction, Peace Be with You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World was selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 in the area of Spiritual Living by Library Journal. His second book on religious terrorism, Countering Religious Extremism: The Healing Power of Spiritual Friendships, will be released by New City Press in 2017.
The cover art is by Carlson’s wife, Kathy, a retired English professor and an award-winning artist.
A teenage girl has vanished in Santa Fe. Nearby, in the Trappist monastery of St. Mary of the Snows, a beautiful young nun is stabbed to death. Father Nicholas Fortis is on sabbatical at St. Mary’s, and when Lieutenant Christopher Worthy of the Detroit Police Department is flown in to help find the missing teenager, the Orthodox monk asks his friend to delve into the nun’s murder as well. The two men make a perfect team: the monk’s gregarious manner opens hearts and the detective’s keen intuition infiltrates psyches.
The Book of Matthew refers to the “narrow gate” that leads to heaven. Each of the key players in these two cases was rattling heaven’s gate in a frantic and even dangerous quest for salvation. Lieutenant Sera Lacey of the Santa Fe Police, with her captivating looks and insight into the Native Americans and cultures of the Southwest, proves both a boon and a distraction for Worthy. As Father Fortis navigates the social hierarchy of the monks of St. Mary’s, he begins to fear their secret agendas. Bowing to the pressure to solve both cases, the investigators let the clues lead them in opposite directions. At the end of one of those paths, Death awaits.
Says the author, “Father Fortis is the opposite of what most people expect of a monk, and his creation for this series gives me a chance not only to put this character into interesting situations and see what happens, but also to educate the public about the Orthodox Church, a branch of Christianity that is more widespread than most people realize. I thought Christopher Worthy, with his cerebral approach and personal demons, would make a perfect foil for this jovial, warm-hearted monk. Add to that the setting of New Mexico, a place I love for its rare beauty and deep spiritual currents. Doing research for this story was great fun.”
David Carlson has a BA in political science from Wheaton College (Illinois), an M.A. from the American Baptist Seminary of the West (Biblical Theology) and a doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland (New Testament Studies). Franklin College, a traditional liberal arts college in central Indiana, has been his home for the past thirty-eight years. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
In the darkness following the night service of Vigils at St. Mary’s, Father Fortis remained in his assigned stall and watched as the columns of monks processed toward the sanctuary altar. Each bowed deeply from the waist before the abbot, then turned to the icon of the Virgin Mary to bow again before filing out into the night.
He picked out the distinctive slap of Father Linus’s sandals at the rear of the line, and the old monk’s parting words from that morning came to mind: “Sister Anna’s murder was terrible, but you need to know that it wasn’t the only attack that has taken place on one of our old moradas. But please. I ask you to say nothing about the santo until next week.”
“Why next week?” Father Fortis had asked.
“I want you to meet the hermano mayor, the governing brother at a morada, a Penitente meeting house. Please, it’s only a few days.”
Father Fortis’s heart had skipped a beat at the time, but now he wondered if it would take the police that long to link the murder with the Penitentes. A routine search at the county courthouse should show that the retreat house had previously been a morada. And how long would it take the police to figure out the meaning of the seven wounds between Sister Anna’s breasts?
Sitting alone in the dark, he gazed out of the massive window at the rock face. Moonlight promised to break free of the crest line at any moment and illuminate the room. As he rose from his seat with thoughts of returning to bed, he heard a faint creaking sound from the balcony above. That was the area reserved for guests, but the monastery had closed its guesthouse to all but Worthy and himself until the investigation was over.
He sat quietly, half expecting to see a sneaky reporter’s head peeking over the railing. He saw and heard nothing, yet something or someone was definitely there. He could feel it. Rising silently, he edged his way to the back of the chapel and to the stairs leading up to the balcony.
He ascended cautiously, wondering if he was overreacting. Couldn’t the sound simply be the evening breeze as it flowed down the valley?
He reached the top stair and peered into the dark balcony. He waited, but again heard nothing. At that moment, the moon broke free of the canyon wall outside and flooded the chapel with light. In that flash, Father Fortis saw three things. One, exploding in the clear desert night air, the bands of color on the far canyon wall. How odd, he thought, to see pinks, reds, even browns at this time of night. Two, in the same instant, he saw that the balcony was empty, its rows of hand-hewn benches bare except for a stack of daily missals. And three, he saw the door at the other end of the balcony swaying slightly.