…of Debra Murphy’s The Mystery of Things

“…it is a great achievement. I literally could hardly put it down. A true metaphysical thriller, covering every aspect of the culture of death.”

Léonie Caldecott, co-editor Second Spring: A Journal of Faith and Culture, and author of Women of Our Century and John Henry Newman: Apostle to the Doubtful

“…this is a stunning debut novel in the modern thriller genre, complete with sex and violence. It is hard to imagine that an orthodox Catholic could have achieved such a thing without disgracing herself, but Debra Murphy seems to have pulled it off. Not since Flannery O’Connor have the workings of grace in a fallen world been so well and realistically reflected.”

Stratford Caldecott, author of The Ring of Power, in a Second Spring review

“The Mystery of Things gives you love and murder, sex and violence, God and the devil, the Virgin and the dragon, plus Catholicism vs. a perverted, self-righteous, hollowed-out image of itself, set against the everyday backdrop of urban and rural Wisconsin. It’s a love story in which loving wrongly does damage, a murder thriller unafraid to probe the juncture of sex and death, and a religious drama which doesn’t sacrifice the natural on the altar of the supernatural.”

Matthew Lickona, author of Swimming with Scapulars


“…a well-written, page-turning, mystery/thriller that will keep you up late, if with the covers pulled over your head at times. In this day and age, in which sex, even among youngsters, is considered as casual an encounter as shaking hands, Murphy does a remarkable job of dramatizing the power and the glory, and the beauty and the ugliness, and the wonder and the shame and the connectedness and the…of it all. An impressive achievement on many levels and a book that bears rereading.”

John Moorehouse, editor of the Catholic Men’s Quarterly

“This may be the most compelling fictional exploration of sin written so far in our post-modern world. Where Tolkien and Lewis projected the inner battle of the spirit out on to worlds where good and evil are writ large on a fantasy background of black and white extremes, Murphy has her characters wrestle with themselves from within an enclave of Catholicism that itself is struggling to carve out an identity within a post-modern US society steeped in the culture wars. In other words, she writes about us. With great insight….

“Is it the first Catholic novel that draws from this seminal work of Pope John Paul II of blessed memory? It’s a danged good page-turning literate mystery, also…Wow. But I repeat myself. This should be the book Catholic story lovers give each other for Christmas. Go out and buy it. You won’t be sorry.”

Rae Stabosz, Confessions of a Cooperator blog, October 21 & October 24, 2005

“On the surface a mystery novel of academic murder, the book is so much more, looking into the very heart of what makes us human, the mystery of things.”

Matt Winslow, INFUZE Magazine

“…scary, beautifully written, suspenseful, and thoroughly Catholic.”

Regina Doman, author of Angel in the Waters, Black as Night, and The Shadow of the Bear.

“How long is it – 3 or 4 nights since I have lived inside your novel? What a tour de force!… It proves a point I have been discussing with several Catholic writers – it is possible for a novel to be really Catholic but also graphic about sex.”

Ronda Chervin, PhD and author of Feminine, Free, and Faithful, Bread from Heaven, and Ties That Bind

“…this book should definitely be put on your reading list if you want provocative intellectual reading that hangs you in suspense until the last page….once the ride is over, the scenes and characters are unforgettable, impressed on the mind with the image of Charles Manson or the Son of Sam. Upon arrival in Milwaukee, you’ll navigate without a map, because the descriptions are convincingly real.”

Pogo’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review

“Other reviewers have already noted that Debra Murphy draws a great deal from literature in this work: not just quoting Shakespeare and Spenser, but creating a narrative that is structured along Shakespearian and Spenserian lines. Fans of the medieval romance tradition may love the vision of the knight, the Lady, and the dragon which haunts James Ireton and the book. But Inklings fans—fans of Lewis, Tolkien, and Charles Williams—…will find the book particularly enjoyable, as it is a mystery in the tradition of the Christian romance (that’s romance as in King Arthur, people, not as an in Danielle Steele!), grounded in theological truths. Murphy brings in the theology of the body and Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of aesthetics, generally without pointing a huge narratorial finger at the influences. This should NOT scare away readers who are uninterested in or unaquainted with Catholic theology, however. You don’t have to be a theologian to enjoy this book. (It probably helps more to be a mystery lover.)…”

Spacemouse, in an reader review.

“It brings to the present day many of the same questions and issues that Shakespeare explored in his works. All of which continue to be just as relevant today as they were then. The Mystery of Things provides a good mystery in an intellectual, literary package. The author provides the reader with mental meat to chew on while putting together the pieces of a puzzle. While I disagree with some points of her theology, I found the meal to be stimulating.”

Barbara Wright, Murder and Mayhem Book Club

“The Mystery of Things is a jolt to the minds of those of us forever mourning the death of the epic in modern literature. Debra Murphy’s outstanding sense of the heroic plays on the best of our mythic sensibilities, producing a complex, multilayered story with classic echoes. A literary jamboree, the plot is riddled with salutes to the “greats” of western literature. However, the author does not stop at mere exultation of a form many call obsolete. Her profound awareness of the anxieties of modern life, coupled with excellent use of irony and humor, make The Mystery of Things that extremely rare text that bridges the daunting gap of old vs. new. While celebrating the beauty inherent in religion, a clear disdain for fundamentalism made the text palatable even to this heathen skeptic. The mystery compels, driven by genuine suspense and a feeling of horror Nabokov would appreciate. The love story is realistic and harrowing, challenging the limits of both the protagonists’ and the reader’s hearts. Characters are intricate and convincing, struggling with issues central to human existence: Love, Death, Faith, etc. The Mystery of Things is a refreshing revival of our most ancient forms that remains highly relevant to the modern reader.”

Kathleen Wilde, OR, in an reader review

“Some complain that Tolkien has no real women in his books, and that Flannery has no “nice people.” Debra, on the other hand, has both men an women, white and black, Hispanic and Irish, who are not only nice or nasty, but who grow in grace, or in sin, as the story progresses….As I neared the end, I could not but want to say of Debra what Merton said of Flannery at her death: “I honor you…[ not among the best sellers of our own day, but among the immortal classics.]”

Fr. Martinus Cawley, OSCO, Guadalupan scholar and monk of Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey, Oregon

“I am not prone to write authors, but I have so enjoyed your book that I thought I’d let you know. It is refreshing to have good and evil defined in a book. I appreciate your knowledge of the mind and how wounded people carry their past with them and act from it. It was refreshing to have the Catholic Church, our faith and it’s priests portrayed with honesty, compassion and appreciation. It was wonderful to have the reality’s of the faith struggle run through a book and people’s lives in an honest way. And the presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe was lovely. It was a joy to read a book written by someone who clearly enjoys the English language, someone who can write complex thought in a cogent way and who can conceive of the sort of complexity of human experience and relationship that the book portrays.”

Victoria Thorn, Milwaukee, founder of Project Rachel, in a letter to the author

“A very powerful and courageous work. Some parts of it left me mightily uneasy—in a good sense. It is truly a kind of snapshot of a culture writhing in its death throes. I was ordained a deacon on Dec. 12, 1985, so I appreciated very much [Our Lady of Guadalupe’s] appearances throughout the novel. In a way, [the author] has depicted a society between two choices: the Mother of God of Tepeyac and Jeffrey Dahmer. I’m going to give my copy to the [Mt. Angel seminary] library because I think we should have it in our collection.”

Fr. Jerome Young, OSB, Director of Spiritual Life, Mt. Angel Abbey & Seminary

“This is a thriller that will grab you on the first page and hold you to the last.”

Marlene Moore, Northwest Book Reviews