Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Available Now: Sister Agatha: The World's Oldest Serial Killer by Domhnall O'Donoghue

Domhnall O'Donoghue

Length: Novel
Genre: Comedic Thriller

Price: $3.99 (99c/99p through 7 August)


Sister Agatha is a colossal 118 years of age, whose vim and vigour would put the most robust athletes to shame. During a routine check-up, however, her doctor claims she has just a week to live, news that proves to be quite inconvenient, seeing as the beloved sister has one ambition in life: to be the oldest person in the world. At last count, she was the fifth.

However, never one to admit defeat, Sister Agatha concocts a bold Plan B. Dusting off her passport, she decides to leave Irish shores for the first time in her very long life, and using the few days remaining, plans to travel across three continents and meet the only four people whose birthday cakes boast more candles than hers.

And then, one by one, she intends on killing them.

• • •

Sister Agatha had been wearing tinted glasses for many years, a snappy and stylish accessory that added a splash of definition to her soft, bulbous face. She wasn’t sensitive to the sun, however; in fact, the nun had always enjoyed lolling about in the convent’s ample grounds on a summer’s day.

No, the real reason this much-loved figure armed herself with such distinctive and flattering eyewear was less to do with her eagerness to be on trend, but more on account of their ability to give people the impression that she was listening to them when, in reality, she was like Rip Van Winkle and catching forty winks. Having graced God’s earth for one hundred and eighteen years, she had, understandably, long since tired of having to give counsel to people’s many pickles and predicaments.
In terms of subject matter, not only had this reluctant sounding board been privy to the humdrum, she had also been exposed to the hardcore. Indeed, had she been a lady of letters, Sister Agatha could have furnished an entire library with scandalous novels bursting with content that would put a blush on the cheeks of even the most progressive free-thinkers.

“If I reported to the world the many anecdotes that I’ve gathered over the years, amorous men and women would be so inspired by this roguery that we wouldn’t see them for dust again!” she firmly decided many years previously, thereby putting paid to any inclinations of becoming the next best-selling, saucy scribe.

Certainly, she was aware that some might argue it was in her professional remit to provide a sympathetic ear to those in need, and while she was in agreement, some days the old doll had neither the interest nor the energy.

Such as this morning.

As she sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s surgery, located on Navan’s busy Abbey Road, Sister Agatha thanked the good Lord above that she had come equipped with her invaluable glasses; after all, nothing encouraged sleep like a conversation about someone’s furry friend.

Doreen Cooney, the town bore, had made a beeline for Sister Agatha when she spotted her on arrival. Despite the fact that she had claimed to be in the throes of a brutal battle with tonsillitis, the gabby school principal appeared to be in full voice as she waxed lyrical about her new adorable cat, Lolita, and the crazy escapades they got up to together. (It was no wonder Mr Cooney had recently accepted a job on the oil rigs off the coast of Scotland; the constant sound of drilling was sure to be an excellent tonic to his wife’s relentless chatter.)

“Sister, I could honestly spend the whole day long just squeezing and tickling and kissing the little cutey pie!” Doreen readily confessed. “You should hear the adorable sounds Lolita makes when she’s indigestion!”

Luckily, within seconds of the new arrival launching into her diatribe about her darling playmate, Sister Agatha had hightailed it to the land of nod and, thanks to her extremely helpful spectacles, nobody knew any better. And that is where she remained until the rugged Doctor McManus emerged from his surgery some ten minutes later.

“My appointment book tells me that it’s time to give my star patient her monthly once-over,” he heartily announced from his door, resisting the urge to give the proud and self-sufficient, super-centenarian a helping hand, as he had been previously instructed.

On the subject of time, Sister Agatha had noted that the handsome, unmarried doctor was unusually behind schedule today. When she had first arrived half an hour earlier, he had promised that he would be as quick as a wink. Either he was exaggerating or was, like the late Sister Veronica, held to ransom by Bell's palsy and having difficulties closing his peepers because thirty minutes certainly didn’t constitute a wink, in her eyes. She contemplated bringing this to his attention in case he was blind to the situation but then dismissed the idea straight away, seeing as a doctor of all people should be aware of such symptoms.

Besides, she wasn’t there to worry about the lovely Doctor McManus’ health; she had kept her appointment today so that her own hardy form could be scrutinised and given the proverbial two thumbs up. And so, with impressive agility, Sister Agatha shook off her slumber and got to her feet. She bade Mrs Cooney goodbye (while secretly thanking her for the rather pleasant catnap) and walked in the direction of the surgery.

“And, I was just about to show you some of our homemade videos,” Doreen lamented. “I suppose I could just wait until you’re finished?”

Sister Agatha’s reply to this horrid suggestion was a blunt shutting of the surgery door behind her.

Every first Wednesday of the month, the formidable nun rocked up to the Abbey Road premises for a straightforward, on-the-off-chance examination. Each and every time, Doctor McManus would probe her from head to toe then praise her extraordinary robustness to the high heavens—a place the one-hundred-and-eighteen-year-old had no interest in frequenting anytime in the near future.

Sister Agatha felt confident today would be no different.

• • •

Hailing from Navan in the royal county of Meath, Domhnall is a graduate of the Bachelor in Acting Studies Programme, Trinity College Dublin, later completing a Master's in Screenwriting at Dún Laoghaire IADT. He now works as an actor and a journalist, dividing his time between Galway, where he films TG4’s flagship series, Ros na Rún, and Venice, where he and his Italian lover continuously promise their well-worn livers that they will refrain from quaffing so much Prosecco. (Unfortunately, it seems some vows, just like nearby Rome, were not built in a day.)

Wine-drinking aside, for more than four years, Domhnall has also enjoyed the responsibility of being Assistant Editor at Irish Tatler Man, a title that won Consumer Magazine of the Year '15/16. Thanks to this role, he interviewed a host of high-profile names, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Chris Pine, Kevin Spacey, David Gandy and Jacques Villeneuve. As a screenwriter, Domhnall co-wrote the short film, A Clown’s Requiem, which was the recipient of funding from the Irish Film Board and premièred at the Galway Film Fleadh. With Co-operation Ireland, a peace-building charity, Domhnall works as an arts mentor. As a result of this work, he met Queen Elizabeth and President Higgins in Belfast in 2012.

When writing his debut novel, Sister Agatha: The World’s Oldest Serial Killer — a comedy thriller that follows a 118-year-old nun who will go to any length in her quest to become the globe’s most senior citizen — Domhnall, the actor, called upon his natural curiosity of the human spirit to create larger-than-life characters, while Domhnall, the journalist, drew upon his extensive experience as a travel writer to provide inspiration for the story’s numerous settings. And as for his fascination with religious orders and the Catholic Church? Being an enthusiastic altar boy for most of his childhood might be the best explanation for that.

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