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Michigan and the Great Lakes

Isadore's Secret

Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town
Mardi Link

A gripping account of the mysterious disappearance of a young nun in a northern Michigan town and the national controversy that followed when she turned up dead and buried in the basement of the church


Swinging planks of lantern light shine through the musty air and onto the dirt floor of the church basement. The oddly glowing rectangles syncopate over the damp ground and illuminate even the darkest, stooped-down corners of the space beyond. The only sound is the ragged breathing of two men, a young parish priest and a much older laborer. Aboveground these men belong completely to this place, in both body and soul. A glimpse of their faces anywhere in the sanctuary, the rectory, the school, the barn, or the gardens would be a welcome sight. But here below, these men of Isadore are interlopers. Only trespassers would sneak silently into the church's sloped underbelly without witness to carry out such a sinful and secret errand as this one. Despite their tools, and their lantern, and their resolve, neither is equipped for the task at hand or for what is to come.

"In Isadore's Secret, Mardi Link shines a journalist's lamp on this dark, quiet corner of Michigan's history, assuring that the tragic story of Sister Janina is not forgotten. Link's telling is fascinating and thorough, making a story you will not soon forget."
—Steve Lehto, author of Death's Door

This true story was the basis for the Broadway play The Runner Stumbles and the film of the same name.

Front cover: Photograph of cemetery © John L. Russell, Great Lakes Images; image of face ©

Mardi Link, a former crime reporter, was named Antioch's Betty Crumrine Scholar for Creative Nonfiction in 2007. Her first book, When Evil Came to Good Hart, also published by the University of Michigan Press, spent four months on the Heartland Indie Bestseller List.

Praise / Awards

  • "An astonishing story told with beautiful, lyrical prose that never overshadows the facts. Mardi Link's achievement with Isadore's Secret is nothing short of stellar."
    —Gregg Olsen, New York Times bestselling author of Starvation Heights

  • "A missing nun, ecclesiastical detectives, a small-town secret, and conspiracies in abundance; Isadore's Secret packs all the punch of a Dan Brown thriller, along with the disturbing revelation that it's all true. This is true-crime reporting at its best."
    —Loren D. Estleman, author of The Left-Handed Dollar

  • "In Isadore's Secret, Mardi Link shines a journalist's lamp on this dark, quiet corner of Michigan's history, assuring that the tragic story of Sister Janina is not forgotten. Link's telling is fascinating and thorough, making a story you will not soon forget."
    —Steve Lehto, author of At Death's Door

  • "Link's journalism is first rate. She mined voluminous church records, local history and national archives, including that at the University of Notre Dame, in her quest. Her twin goals of providing accurate detail while teasing out the long held mystery are achieved from the first page to the last of Isadore's Secret."
    —Glen Young, Petoskey News-Review

  • "Mardi does a superb job of drawing readers into the story by staying strongly in the point of view of those closest to this stunning murder and telling the story in succinct, intelligent prose."
    —Laura James, CLEWS

  • "This book grabs hold of you and doesn't let go even when you're done reading it! Isadore's Secret reads like a wonderful murder mystery, and yet is factual, which is what makes it so fascinating."
    —Marta Hoelscher, Marta's Meanderings

  • "Link has produced a gem intended for a general audience, as well as providing a foundation for others to build on."
    —Paula Hinton, Tennessee Technological University

  • Named a 2010 Michigan Notable Book

Look Inside

Copyright © 2009, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Supplemental Materials

News, Reviews, Interviews

Watch: Virtual Author Event recording | Link | 11/17/2021

Watch: Mardi Link discuss the Emmet County Cold Case on 9&10 News

Listen: UMP Author Podcast Series: Mardi Link | MP3 | October 2009

Read: Interview with the Author | | 7/26/2010

Read: Author Q&A on Wonders & Marvels | 05/01/2010

Read: Review Capital News Service | 4/23/2010

Read: Review Record-Eagle | 2/8/2010

Read: Review Night Light Review | 1/6/2010

Read: Review A2 Journal/Heritage Newspapers | 12/10/2009

Read: Review on CLEWS | 11/30/2009

Read: Review on Marta's Meanderings Blog | 11/30/2009

Read: Review CLEWS | 10/6/2009

Read: Review Grand Rapids Press | 10/4/2009

Read: Q&A with Mardi Link | PDF | 10/1/2009

Read: Article Traverse City Record-Eagle | 9/25/2009

Media Kit

  • Author Photo 1 .jpg. Photo credit Pete Morton.
  • Author Photo 2 .jpg. Photo credit Grand Traverse Insider.
  • Photo 1 .jpg. Holy Rosary Church, 1883. Courtesy Traverse Area Historical Society.
  • Photo 2 .jpg. Sexton Jacob Flees, Father Andrew (second from left), and two unidentified local men show off the spoils of a winter hunt. Circa 1910. Collection of Jack Sweeney.
  • Photo 3 .jpg. The only known photograph of Sister Mary Jamina. Courtesy University of Notre Dame Archives.
  • Photo 4 .jpg. Aerial view of Isadore, circa 1975. Courtesy Traverse Area Historical Society.
  • Photo 5 .jpg. Postcard featuring Stella Lipczynska, inside the Leelanau County Jail, Leland, MI, circa 1919. Collection of Dave Tinder.
  • Photo 6 .jpg. Grand Rapids Press coverage. Courtesy Traverse Area Historical Society.
  • Author Biography .doc
  • Hi-Res Cover .jpg
  • Press Release .doc

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 280pp.
  • 26 halftones.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05079-6

Add to Cart
  • $22.95 U.S.

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