by Mardi Link
I have been familiar with the story of the missing nun from Leelanau County for years and was anxiously awaiting Mardi Link’s second true-crime book last summer. I was lucky to be able to read it in Leelanau County, not far from the scene of the murder: the small community of Isadore, where the Holy Rosary Catholic Church is the predominant presence in the landscape.
“Isadore’s Secret” is the story of Sister Janina, a young Felician nun who mysteriously disappeared one summer day in 1907, and the cover-up and controversy that followed when her decayed remains were found ten years later in the basement of the very church she served. The story is interwoven with the parish priests, the bishops, the townspeople, the local sheriff and the suspect housekeeper in a tale of secrets, scandal and intrigue.
Mardi Link has captured the flavor of the small Polish rural community in the early 1900s and the historically accurate background gives depth to the story. Link has done extensive research on the case, carefully constructing the story with original research using church records and other documents, newspaper accounts, and interviews with family members of those involved. The resulting tale would
seem to be the basis for a great crime novel, but Link’s book is pure non-fiction.
Link’s gripping account of the despicable crime, the sins of omission of the Catholic Church, and the insight into Sister Janina’s convent life makes for a great Halloween read.