The Dying Light by Alison Joseph

published 1999 chapter 13

‘Just follow,’ he said…

Venn moved effortlessly, and although she had no idea what she was supposed to do, it was easy to keep up with him. He stopped, took off his coat and flung it over a chair. His shirt was loosely fitted in fine white cotton. Agnes was glad she’d worn her low heels. ‘See?’ he said after a while. The rhythm changed again, and Agnes was aware that they’d become a spectacle, and that the few people left were watching them, and suddenly she didn’t care, and the drumbeat and the rhythm were enough, and she abandoned herself to the feeling of the dance…

The music finished. Venn let go of Agnes. He held her gaze for a long moment. She followed him back to their table and sat down. He poured more champagne.

‘And me, honey.’ Rosanna came and joined them and passed him her glass. ‘Or have you forgotten all about me?’ Venn poured her a drink.

‘Mind you, a nun,’ Rosanna went on. ‘It’s enough to turn a man’s head.’ She fixed Agnes with a hard look. ‘A nun who can dance.’

‘Oh, not me.’ Agnes smiled at her. ‘I can’t dance.’

observations: I once read a Quentin Tarantino quote to the effect that all great films have a dance scene in them: surely he’s right, and the same might nearly apply to books. Dance scenes were the topic for an ingenious post by Margot Kinberg on her Confessions of a Mystery Novelist blog, and she and I discussed this book.

Sister Agnes, our nun sleuth heroine, has gone to a shady nightclub as part of her investigations. Venn is the club owner, also rather shady but very attractive. The dance scene is quite overt, telling us about both characters, and making it clear that Sister Agnes is very much part of the world of emotions. Several times later in the book there are comments on her dancing… and on the skirt she was wearing – her more worldly friend says she was
pinching other women’s men and dancing with them in nightclubs. And you were wearing that skirt of yours. I’ve always thought you look fantastic in that.

I wish I could say that this is a great book. It is certainly a reasonable read, with an interesting if wildly over-complicated plot – like all detective story fans, I can keep a family tree in my head, but this one, with its raft of cousins and brothers and uncles, defeated me. And I find the books too gloomy and Sister Agnes just annoying. But plenty of people love this series, and it’s certainly worth a try.

Links on the blog: Margot and her blog had a hand in the Death on the Nile entry too. Nearly nuns: Katherine of Aragon might have gone into a convent; the young woman in this family has every intention of becoming a nun; and Dorothy Parker contrasts women’s dresses – ‘linen’s for a nun’.

The fabulous picture, Jitterbugs II by William H Johnson (who has featured before on the blog) is from the Smithsonian Institution.


  1. Moira - Thanks very much *blush* for the kind mentions. And it's interesting isn't it when some people rave about a character and others find that character annoying. I've had that happen to me and I wonder if it's a credit to the author that the character resonates enough to spark any response. You're spot on too I think about the way a raft of characters can distract the reader. Of course one needs more than one or two unless it's a short story, but too many characters can detract from a story. Especially as you say if they're members of a complex family tree.

  2. I don't think I've read this book but have read others featuring Sister Agnes. An enjoyable series.

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