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June 21 , 2009

Good for the Soul


Father Columba rides again! This time he is on leave from his abbey in Pennsylvania to do a retreat on the Holy Isle of Iona, just off the west coast of Scotland. It is the tiny dot in the ocean where his namesake, Saint Columba, took refuge and built an abbey over a millennium and a half ago. While there, the new Columba is called upon to solve a murder mystery and unknowingly follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, who had to solve a similar mystery in the distant but not so misty past.
At the turn of this millennium, in 2001, author James Baker discovered a journal in the archives of Columba’s abbey in Pennsylvania which detailed Columba’s dithering attempt to solve a murder in a priory in Mississippi. That account is now the book Prior Knowledge.
Five years later he discovered a second journal, which comprises half of Good for the Soul, in the Vatican Library in Rome. He learned the story of the first Columba from an Irish priest studying at Rome’s Angelicum Institute. Seeing the striking similarities in the two stories, he combined them for this book. The priest hinted several times that he knew about another of Columba’s journals concerning a murder in Rome, but Baker has not been able to track it down.
Still another journal, the story of a murder in Korea which Columba helped solve and which he mentioned in the “Good for the Soul” journal, is missing. It is possible that Columba destroyed it because it was dangerous. Only last year Baker’s collaborator Cheryl Greer Reels found another of Columba’s journals in Nashville’s Convent of St. Mary Magdalene. This journal will eventually be published in book form. Look for it.

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