Enter by the Narrow Gate – A Christopher Worthy/Father Fortis Mystery #1

Pub Date: November, 2016
Price: $14.95 Paperback
Size: 6×9
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 244
ISBN: 978-1-60381-391-4

Coffeetown Press


A Detroit detective and an Orthodox priest team up to solve two mysteries unfolding in the Santa Fe area: a missing person’s case involving a teenage girl and the ritualistic murder of a young nun. Their dangerous quest requires them to delve into the secret lives of Trappist monks and alienated teenagers and to gain insight into obscure religious practices and the cultures of the Southwest.


In the darkness following the night service of Vigils at St. Mary’s, Father Fortis remained in his assigned stall and watched as the columns of monks processed toward the sanctuary altar. Each bowed deeply from the waist before the abbot, then turned to the icon of the Virgin Mary to bow again before filing out into the night.
He picked out the distinctive slap of Father Linus’s sandals at the rear of the line, and the old monk’s parting words from that morning came to mind: “Sister Anna’s murder was terrible, but you need to know that it wasn’t the only attack that has taken place on one of our old moradas. But please. I ask you to say nothing about the santo until next week.”

“Why next week?” Father Fortis had asked.

“I want you to meet the hermano mayor, the governing brother at a morada, a Penitente meeting house. Please, it’s only a few days.”

Father Fortis’s heart had skipped a beat at the time, but now he wondered if it would take the police that long to link the murder with the Penitentes. A routine search at the county courthouse should show that the retreat house had previously been a morada. And how long would it take the police to figure out the meaning of the seven wounds between Sister Anna’s breasts?

Sitting alone in the dark, he gazed out of the massive window at the rock face. Moonlight promised to break free of the crest line at any moment and illuminate the room. As he rose from his seat with thoughts of returning to bed, he heard a faint creaking sound from the balcony above. That was the area reserved for guests, but the monastery had closed its guesthouse to all but Worthy and himself until the investigation was over.

He sat quietly, half expecting to see a sneaky reporter’s head peeking over the railing. He saw and heard nothing, yet something or someone was definitely there. He could feel it. Rising silently, he edged his way to the back of the chapel and to the stairs leading up to the balcony.

He ascended cautiously, wondering if he was overreacting. Couldn’t the sound simply be the evening breeze as it flowed down the valley?

He reached the top stair and peered into the dark balcony. He waited, but again heard nothing. At that moment, the moon broke free of the canyon wall outside and flooded the chapel with light. In that flash, Father Fortis saw three things. One, exploding in the clear desert night air, the bands of color on the far canyon wall. How odd, he thought, to see pinks, reds, even browns at this time of night. Two, in the same instant, he saw that the balcony was empty, its rows of hand-hewn benches bare except for a stack of daily missals. And three, he saw the door at the other end of the balcony swaying slightly.


David Carlson’s book, “Enter by the Narrow Gate” has received the prestigious honor of winning the esteemed Bronze Award from the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards Regional and Ebook Medalists. There were more than 5,000 entries for these acclaimed literary awards! Conducted annually, the Independent Publisher Book Awards honor the year’s best independently published titles from around the world. These awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles published each year.

View IPPY Awards Page with David Carlson Bronze Award notation for Enter by the Narrow Gate!


“David Carlson’s Enter by the Narrow Gate introduces Father Nicholas Fortis and Detroit Police Department Lieutenant Christopher Worthy. The two men are together to find a missing teenager as well as investigate the murder of a young nun at the Trappist monastery of St. Mary of the Snows near Santa Fe.

They work well together, even though each has his own style of investigation. What one misses the other picks up. Worthy, a well known and successful investigator, is flown in from Detroit to work with Father Fortis to prevent more killings and to solve the one that already happened. Lieutenant Sera Lacey of the Santa Fe police joins them in their quest as she is familiar with the cultures of the Southwest which could have a bearing on the case.

Enter by the Narrow Gate has an intriguing plot that mixes different personalities working toward a common goal. Worthy begins to take an interest in the lovely Sera, while she is determined to solve the shocking crime that brought murder to the monastery.

The plot of this mystery is different in that it brings into the story a religious crime that is not the typical one found in this field. And does it well. The friendship, instead of competition, that grows between the two men augers well for the series.”~~ Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth – BookLoons Reviewer

“I didn’t want to let go of Christopher and Father Fortis…. We need sleuths like this. They’re intelligent and not afraid to share that intellectualism with each other. How refreshing!” 

– Christine DeSmet, award-winning writer and author of the Fudge Shop Mysteries

“The novel’s prose is rich with religious references and imagery, which add to the unique depth of the novel….The rapport between Worthy and Fortis is easy and enjoyable, and the double case ensures that Enter by the Narrow Gate never slows in action.”

– Foreword Reviews

“The real joy in reading this mystery lies in Carlson’s exploration of how faith shapes reasoning and actions, rather than simply the action itself. Thus Father Fortis can proudly take his place in a list of religious detectives that includes Father Brown, Brother Cadfael and Rabbi David Small.” 

-Rich Gotshall, The Daily Journal
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“The cultures of New Mexico and its Native American population are explored in depth, offering many insights into the region and its inhabitants while providing a background for this intriguing mystery… Enter by the Narrow Gate is the first novel in the Christopher Worthy-Father Fortis mystery series, and it gets these two characters off to a chilling but entertaining start.” 

– Toni V. Sweeney for the New York Journal of Books

“A consistently compelling and entertaining read from first page to last! Highly recommended.” 

-Mason’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review, October 2016
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“Father Nicholas Fortis and Lieutenant Christopher Worthy are both out of their element the instant the two friends get to Santa Fe from the Midwest, and that ratchets up the suspense in this excellent mystery…. Author David Carlson has created a great team in Fortis and Worthy. The priest’s kind, open manner and knowledge of scripture and theology complement Worthy’s hard-nosed pursuit of killers.” 

– Rich Zahradnik, author of the Coleridge Taylor Mysteries