Ash Wednesday (Father Dowling Series #27) [NOOK Book]


Father Dowling has been serving as parish priest and resident sleuth at St. Hilary’s for a while now, but he’s no lifer, and there’s plenty that he doesn’t know about the old guard. So when a stranger comes to Fox River who isn’t a stranger to anyone but him, he has to rely on his prying housekeeper to tell him that the mystery man is actually a well-known murderer. Ten years ago, Nathaniel Green’s wife was dying of cancer, and after a short remission she relapsed into a coma. That small sliver of hope so ...

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Ash Wednesday (Father Dowling Series #27)

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Father Dowling has been serving as parish priest and resident sleuth at St. Hilary’s for a while now, but he’s no lifer, and there’s plenty that he doesn’t know about the old guard. So when a stranger comes to Fox River who isn’t a stranger to anyone but him, he has to rely on his prying housekeeper to tell him that the mystery man is actually a well-known murderer. Ten years ago, Nathaniel Green’s wife was dying of cancer, and after a short remission she relapsed into a coma. That small sliver of hope so utterly dashed must have been too much for him because when the nurses came to check on her they found that he had taken her off of her life support. Green’s return divides the community, but the more Father Dowling ponders the moral questions and reinvestigates the case, the more he wonders if Green committed any crime at all.

With parishioners up in arms, Father Dowling has to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a conviction is no proof of guilt in Ash Wednesday, the newest addition to Ralph McInerny’s acclaimed and beloved mystery series.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

At the start of McInerny's uplifting 27th Father Dowling mystery (after 2007's The Widow's Mate), a stranger asks the pastor of St. Hilary's if it's all right for the priest to have put ashes on his forehead. After all, as Nathaniel Green admits, he's not a Catholic. Furthermore, Nathaniel has just been released from prison, where he spent nearly 10 years after admitting he'd turned off the life support system of his wife, Florence, who was suffering from terminal cancer. Having lost his Catholic faith after Florence's death, Nathaniel is now returning to his old parish, much to the consternation of his sister-in-law and others. In his usual gentle, thoughtful way, Father Dowling makes compassionate decisions while other members of his parish become entangled in a complicated web of crime and deceit. Readers who long for a down-to-earth story of ordinary people and events will be well rewarded. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The moral ambiguity of murder. Ten years before Father Dowling's housekeeper Marie escorted Nathaniel Green over to St. Hilary's Senior Center, he had confessed to killing his cancer-stricken wife Florence and been tried, convicted and sent to Joliet. Now released, he returns and to universal surprise makes out a will leaving everything to his hated sister-in-law Helen, who never forgave him for what he did to her sister. Quickly marshaling her forces, Helen convinces the other seniors to shun him. Natalie is too busy being courted by newcomer Eugene Schmidt to care much, but when Eugene accidentally rams the center's van into Helen's car, sending her head first into an abutment, she becomes one of Helen's heirs. So does Helen's ne'er-do-well son Jason, a gambling drunkard. When Jason is pummeled with a baseball bat, his legacy ends up in the hands of his estranged wife Carmela, now romantically attached to her business partner Augie, whose sister married into the notorious Pianone family. Egged on by his housekeeper, the local press and ruminations from his mentor Willy Nilly, Father Dowling (The Widow's Mate, 2007, etc.) starts to untangle the real story behind the outbreak of homicide, if not to the satisfaction of his housekeeper Marie, certainly to his legion of fans. Father Dowling's 27th gently probes questions of guilt, intention and absolution while having a bit of fun with small-town nattering.
From the Publisher
Praise for Ralph McInerny’s Father Dowling Mysteries

“Mystery at its bloodless, cerebral best . . . Dowling is the perfect father confessor, dealing with moral dilemmas and the weakness of man with compassion and understanding.”

—-The Chicago Tribune

“You don’t have to go to church to worship mystery lovers’ esteemed Father Dowling.”

—-Entertainment Weekly

“Father Dowling is not the average priest. . . . He has been through the mill himself, is tough, yet has compassion.”

—-The New York Times Book Review

“This series continues to deliver, with a fascinating protagonist, intelligent plotting, and dry humor.”

—-Booklist on The Widow’s Mate

“Entertaining . . . McInerny keeps the story moving with several twists and turns, producing another solid parish mystery for Father Dowling to solve in his usual quiet and compassionate way.”

—-Publishers Weekly on The Widow’s Mate

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429949354
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/22/2008
  • Series: Father Dowling Mysteries, #27
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 568,653
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

RALPH MCINERNY has authored more than forty books, including his popular mystery series set at the University of Notre Dame, where he has taught for more than fifty years and is the director of the Jacques Maritain Center. The recipient of the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award, he has also been appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. He lives in South Bend, Indiana.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
"Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

Father Dowling murmured this formula as he traced a cross on the foreheads of the old people who advanced up the middle aisle of St. Hilary’s on this Ash Wednesday. Remember, man. No feminist had ever objected to this inclusive term, perhaps wanting to think of it as gender specific. Like All men are mortal?

It was the rheumy eye of Monica Garvey staring into his as he applied ashes to her forehead that prompted these irreverent thoughts. Monica was known to complain about the Church’s treatment of women, thereby earning the friendly enmity of Marie Murkin, the parish housekeeper. Monica turned and made way for the next penitent. Roger Dowling switched to the Latin formula when Kevin Brown stood before him, eyes closed, head thrust forward.

"Memento homo quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris."

Kevin’s lips moved as he repeated the words silently. Kevin had given Father Dowling a subscription to the magazine Latin Mass at Christmas, and the first issue had arrived some weeks before. Father Dowling said Vatican II’s Novus Ordo in Latin once a week, on Mondays, and the attendance noticeably rose.

"Why only once a week, Father?" Kevin asked.

"After years of English it takes some getting used to."

"People love it."

It was partly nostalgia, of course. There were few people who, like Kevin Brown, understood Latin. He had studied it as a boy at Quigley when he had thought of becoming a priest. But he had gone on to Loyola and then to law school, prospered, married, had half a dozen disappointing children about whose souls he now fretted. "Thank God, Bridget never saw how they turned out." It seemed that none of them went to Mass anymore. With Kevin there might have been an element of affectation in his championing the return to Latin in the liturgy. A pharisee thanking God he was not like the rest of men? That was unfair. Kevin seemed to think that it was the Church’s dropping of Latin that had led to the falling away of his children.

Father Dowling finished distributing ashes and went into the sacristy feeling that his Lent was off on the wrong foot. Uncharitable thoughts, first about Monica and then about Kevin. God knows he had few aggravations in his pastoral work. Other pastors had to contend with the uprising of laypeople, women lectors who altered the Scriptures as they read, male clerical wannabes hovering about the pastor, a platoon of aids called ministers. Father Dowling realized he was in charge at St. Hilary’s as others longed to be in charge of their own parishes. A mild feminist and a man who missed the Latin of his youth scarcely added up to a cross. Most of those who had been to the noon Mass and stayed for the distribution of ashes would now return to the parish center in the former school.

A man shuffled into the sacristy, a smudge of ashes on his forehead. Father Dowling remembered him; he had been the last in line.

"I hope it was all right, Father." He pointed to his forehead.

"Why wouldn’t it be?" The man had not come to communion. Did he think he must confess before receiving ashes?

"I’m not a Catholic, Father."


"I meant no disrespect."

"It’s perfectly all right," Father Dowling said. "It’s not a sacrament. Just a reminder of our mortality as Lent begins."

"Quite a turnout."

Father Dowling guessed him to be in his late sixties, maybe more. His complexion was colorless and seemed paler because of his white hair.

"Most of them came over from the parish center. You might want to look into it."

The man seemed puzzled, so Father Dowling explained the use to which he had put the school when there were no longer enough kids in the parish to justify keeping it open.

"What is it exactly?" the man asked.

"Look, come have lunch with me. Mrs. Murkin doesn’t like me to be late."


"The housekeeper."

"I don’t want to intrude."

Father Dowling said, "She likes it when I ask people to join me." She liked anyone with an appetite greater than his. On the way to the rectory he asked the man his name and so was able to announce it when they passed through the kitchen.

"Mr. Green, Marie. Nathaniel Green. He has agreed to have lunch with me."

Marie harumphed. "On Ash Wednesday? Some treat."

"I’m not Catholic," Green said.

Marie gave him the fish eye. "I made no provisions for that. You’ll have to fast and abstain with Father Dowling."

Marie made it sound like bread and water. But it was a broiled white fish and mixed vegetables, peas and corn, that Marie put before them.

"I was telling Mr. Green about the parish center, Marie."

"You retired?" Marie asked their guest.

Green smiled. "Is that a requirement?"

"No," she said, "and you don’t have to be Catholic, either. Many of them will be older than you."

Marie’s manner with Green was brisk and oddly distant. She swept into the kitchen; the door swung to and fro and then stopped.

"I have been in a rectory before," Nathaniel Green said. "Before I married."

"You married a Catholic?" Father Dowling said.

"I used to be a Catholic myself."

"Did you get tired of it?" A light note seemed best, given the way Green had introduced the subject.

"After her death, I just let it go."

Father Dowling nodded. Every life had its tragedies, sooner or later.

"I gather that wasn’t recently," he said.

"No." "And now you’ve come back."

"You make it sound easy."

No need to press it now. If Green had come to church on Ash Wednesday, that might mean something, and then again it might not.

"Why don’t you let Marie take you over to the parish center and introduce you around?"

"Oh, I’m sure she’s too busy," Green protested.

From the kitchen came a voice. "Give me five minutes and I’ll take him over."

Excerpted from Ash Wednesday by Ralph McInerny

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph McInerny

Published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Minotaur

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    On Ash Wednesday, just out of prison Nathaniel Green, who killed his wife ten years ago when he pulled the plug on the life support machine so she could go to heaven, asks the pastor of St. Hilary's if he will put ashes on his forehead though he is no longer a Catholic. He gave up on religion when his beloved Florence suffered from terminal cancer and kept alive by so called caring people when she just wanted to die.-------------------- Nathaniel and Florence belonged to St. Hilary before he committed euthanasia. Some people especially Florence¿s sister do not want to turn the other cheek and let him return to the flock. They condemn him for murdering his spouse quoting the bible and the Ten Commandments. On the other hand Father Dowling understands why a human would act mercifully to end the suffering of a loved one although he feels deeply that it is still is a sin. As the parish divides over the issue of mercy killing, Dowling begins to see some incongruence in what he hears happened a decade ago as he quietly investigates he begins to wonder if Nathaniel actually pulled the plug or is covering for someone.------------------ This is a thought provoking Father Dowling mystery perhaps the best in years as everyday people struggle with the difficult and complex issue of euthanasia as the St. Hilary congregation is divided over the subject and the killer. The story line is fast-paced once the whisper campaign begins that Green is out of prison and home and never slows down as he is shunned while he reads Crime and Punishment seeking absolution, but for what asks Father Dowling?------------- Harriet Klausner

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