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The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain (Blackie Ryan Series)

The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain (Blackie Ryan Series)

3.3 6
by Andrew M. Greeley

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The bestselling priest & novelist Andrew M. Greeley continues the tales of the intrepid Bishop Blackie Ryan with this absorbing & suspenseful mystery, set in France, of a missing beloved television priest.

Not just an ordinary priest but a priest/television superstar, idolized by the people of France, loved by everyone except, of course the French hierarchy, the


The bestselling priest & novelist Andrew M. Greeley continues the tales of the intrepid Bishop Blackie Ryan with this absorbing & suspenseful mystery, set in France, of a missing beloved television priest.

Not just an ordinary priest but a priest/television superstar, idolized by the people of France, loved by everyone except, of course the French hierarchy, the church, state and the Paris television community.

The Archbishop of Paris, familiar with Bishop Blackie Ryan's impressive sleuthing skills, asks Blackie's boss, the Archbishop of Chicago Sean Cardinal Cronin, for help in finding this missing priest. As usual, Cardinal Cronin resolves the matter with a brusque "See to it, Blackie."

In Paris, Blackie meets a young and beautiful woman begging for money at the door of the church of St-Germain-des-Prés. When he hires her as a translator, she turns out to be an excellent Dr. Watson and a brilliant musician as well. She is at his side as Blackie learns that neither the Church nor the police are eager to have the saintly priest returned, and once the public discovers the disappearance of their beloved priest, the miracles start-and nothing scares the Church more than miracles.

Undaunted, Blackie and his beautiful sidekick defy uncooperative Paris police, an unbending church, and reluctant witnesses to find the bizarre solution to one of the most fascinating puzzles he has ever encountered.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A master storyteller.” —Nelson DeMille

“Fine for a day at the beach or a bistro on the Boulevard St. Germain.” —The Star-Observer, Hudson, WI

“For the reader who enjoys clever dialogue and a thought-provoking story as much as a roller-coaster action thriller, Greeley continues to deliver.” —The Tampa Tribune

When a popular priest goes missing in Paris, Bishop Blackie Ryan heads for France to lend a hand, aided by a beautiful beggar woman who proves to be an able translator-and an even shrewder detective!
Publishers Weekly
Full of unexpected turns and twists, Greeley's popular series featuring the wry, resourceful Bishop John Blackwood Ryan continues, with the spiritual sleuth on the hunt for a young, charismatic priest missing in Paris. Blackie, as Ryan is fondly called, is dispatched by Chicago Archbishop Cronin to solve the disappearance of Father Jean-Claude while escorting the church official's sister-in-law Nora Cronin on her vacation to the City of Lights. Distrusted by the church hierarchy for his growing popularity, the telegenic Frenchman vanished without a trace while guiding TV producers through the famed cathedral of Notre-Dame, causing widespread rumors of foul play and unrest among his young followers. Blackie's efforts to gain the cooperation of church officials are thorough (too much so), but Greeley pumps new life into the sometimes sluggish tale with the arrival of the refreshing Celt beggar girl Marie-Bernadette, who acts not only as the bishop's translator but as his savvy interpreter of French culture. A good premise goes to waste here as Greeley appears to run out of steam halfway through this rather slim novel. Lacking much murderous activity, it seeks to satisfy its readers with a sedate blend of modern religious disputes, paired with the usual missing person plot, as well as long, taxing passages discussing French canon history, acts of faith and Gallic arrogance sprinkled with an occasional hint of possible mischief. Unfortunately, even the Greeley faithful may find the mystery's resolution weak and uncharacteristically gimmicky. (July) Forecast: Although this entry may not be as strong as earlier outings in the popular series, it should do little to dampen Blackie enthusiasm,which will be fostered by national advertising plans and a teaser excerpt in Irish Eyes. Greeley fans will take this one in stride and eagerly await the return of their favorite sleuthing bishop. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Auxiliary Bishop Blackwood Ryan of Chicago, who never saw the locked-room mystery he couldn't crack (The Bishop and the Missing L Train, 2000, etc.), gets a Gallic challenge in his third time out. In Paris with his boss, the Cardinal Archbishop, Blackie confronts the knotty case of the vanished priest—and not just an ordinary priest, but handsome young Friar Jean-Claude, idol of millions of Frenchmen and -women mesmerized by his television sermonizing. In preparation for a TV documentary, he'd been guiding a team of writer-producers through certain excavations when he vanished, leaving bewildered searchers amazed that he could have walked through walls. Is Blackie deterred by the conundrum? Au contraire. All he needs is a translator like beautiful beggar girl/street musician Marie-Bernadette. And just as she's the answer to Blackie's prayers, he's the answer to hers. In short order she's become a Watson in skirts to his Holmes in surplice, and together they discover that not everyone in the hierarchy wants the mystery solved. Some in very high places felt threatened by the charismatic Jean-Claude, while others in quite ordinary places may have loved him far too well. Blackie keeps at the mystery until at length that locked door opens for him. Many readers, however, will have reached the same point tout de suite. Slight and slow. Mostly for the faithful.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Bishop Blackie Ryan Series , #2
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain


"Blackwood, I need a favor."

Sean Cronin, Cardinal Priest of the Holy Roman Church and by the Grace of God and heroic patience of the Apostolic See, Archbishop of Chicago, leaned casually against my doorjamb.

I was instantly wary. Cardinals don't need to ask for favors. Something was afoot, something more serious than Sherlock Holmes's "the game."

"I cannot recall that there is a marker on the table," I said cautiously.

I was appealing to the Chicago School of economics, not that made famous by all the Nobel folk over at The University but by Chicago politicians: its premise was that you can ask for a favor from someone who owes you one for a previous favor (a "marker"). I owed Milord Cronin no favors, not that it mattered.

"I want you to go to Paris," he said, ignoring my appeal to proper procedure.

"Paris, Illinois?" I asked, blinking my eyes in feigned surprise.

"Paris, France!" he said impatiently as he strode to the cabinet where I stored various liquid refreshments. "You've been there, of course."

He poured for himself a more than adequate amount of John Jameson's Twelve Year Special Reserve (now at least a quarter century old). In the reform of life imposed on him by his twice-widowedsister-in-law, Nora Cronin, he was permitted one of those a day and two cups of coffee. It was early in the afternoon for him to fill his quota.

"As you know, we Ryans travel only in cases of utmost necessity. The journey to Grand Beach, Michigan, represents the outer limit of our travels, save for an occasional venture to the Golden Dome to cheer in vain for the fighting Black Baptists."

This was surely the case. We risked going beyond that limit only for reasons of business or love, new or renewed. Neither of these issues impacted on my life.

We never, of course, drove to Milwaukee.

"You have to visit Paris, the City of Light."

"The city where they kill cardinals and bishops in front of your good friend Victor Hugo's cathedral."

"That was a long time ago," he noted, removing a stack of computer output from my easy chair and sinking wearily into it.

If he wanted me to go to Paris, then I would go to Paris. However, it was necessary that we act out the scenario.

"Nonetheless, the French do it periodically."

"I owe a lot to Nora," he said.

"Patently your health, arguably your life."

"So, I want to take her to Paris for her birthday."

"A virtuous intent."

"And I want you along to add an air of legitimacy to the trip."

Aha! So that was the nature of the game!

"My abilities as a chaperone are even more modest than my other abilities."

"All you have to do is to be around."

"Patently, I am quite unnecessary. While arguably your virtue might appear under suspicion to someamong the uninformed, the virtue of your admirable sister-in-law is beyond question."

Foster sister and sister-in-law to be precise since Nora had been adopted by the Cronins as a child and later in life married her late foster brother Paul Cronin. 1

"If an auxiliary bishop is in tow, no one will be suspicious."

An auxiliary bishop plays a role not unlike that of Harvey Keitel in the film Pulp Fiction: he sweeps up messes. This was a somewhat new extension of that role.

"The uninformed trust me less than you."

"Nora deserves this trip."

He was actually pleading with me, indirectly and circumspectly as befitted his role.

"This is a busy time in the parish."

All times in the parish are busy.

"One of your young guys can take care of it for a week."

In fact, any one of them could take care of it better than I could.


"Besides, Blackwood, the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris has an interesting little problem. He hasn't asked for your help, because he doesn't know about you, but he needs your help just the same."


This was the bait, the double chocolate malted milk on the table.

"It would seem that one of his most talented young priests has disappeared from the face of the earth."


"Into thin air, so to speak." He swilled the whiskey around in its Waterford goblet. "Do you want a drink? It's your whiskey, after all."

"What sort of thin air?"

"Third-century Gallo-Roman thin air!"


"Yeah, a famous TV priest, young, good-looking, great preacher, a little too right-wing maybe for your tastes, name of Jean-Claude Chrétien."

"The Church in France seriously needs right-wing TV preachers if it is to succeed in its efforts to bring back the Bourbon monarchy. Whether such a preacher will speak to the needs of the twenty-five percent of young people in that country who are unemployed is perhaps an open question."

Milord Cronin peered at me over the rim of his drink.

"Like I always say, Blackwood, I'm glad you're on my side ... In any event this young man has, or perhaps I should say had, some training in archaeology. He was showing a couple of TV producers through the excavations under Notre-Dame in preparation for a program about the continuity of the Church in France."

"Doubtless he intended to make clear that the original Parisi were Celts."

"Doubtless, Blackwood. Anyway, he vanished. Turned a corner and when the producers caught up with him, he wasn't there anymore."


"Arguably," Milord Cronin agreed, stealing my favorite word.

"I would be correct if I assumed that there is only one access to these ruins?"

"Yep. And people at the cashier's desk whorecognized him from his TV program swore he never left ... . So the assumption is that he jumped into a house they had unearthed in the ruins and returned to the third century."

"Arguably where he belonged."

"I suppose that there are more rational explanations. However, no one has ever found him."

I could think of some obvious ones. However, assuming that the Paris police still worked in the tradition of C. August Dupin and Inspector Maigret, they would have thought of them too. The disappearance could be conveniently accounted for perhaps. But the motive was another matter altogether. Murder? Perhaps. Fleeing from the priesthood? Arguably. Or something more sinister and cynical? The basic principle of disappearance was easy enough. You needed a few forged credentials, some credit cards and bank accounts under a new name, a place to come to earth and stay until the police gave up and stopped looking—either because they figured you were dead or had made up your mind not to be found. If, however, you were a celebrity—like a prominent TV priest—it was much more difficult to come to ground where you would not be known. More difficult, but not impossible so long as you had a loyal team of coconspirators and lots of money.

The Church might take the position, especially if there were no ransom demands, that you were dead and that Communists or radicals had killed you. At that point the Church would quietly stop hoping that you'd turn up and begin to hope that you would not.

"So"-Sean Cardinal Cronin bounced from my easy chair, neglecting to replace the pile of computer output which represented the parish schedule for the next six months-"when we get there and you're not busy withyour chaperone duties, you can see to it, Blackwood!"

He thereupon departed my study with his best maniacal laugh, a crimson guided missile going into orbit.

On the whole, as Holmes would say, it was a matter not without some interesting points.

"Punk, you really have to go to Paris with Sean and Nora," insisted my sister, Mary Kathleen Ryan Murphy, who was on the phone almost as soon as Milord Cronin left the room. "You owe it to him."

"Ah," I said. "I am unaware of what that debt might be."

I had already committed myself, more or less, to the venture. Family scenarios however, had to be preserved.

"You should stay at the Abbey where Joe and I stayed when we went over with Red Kane and Eileen."

Eileen Ryan Kane, a judge in the Federal Appellate Court, was the number two matriarch in our family.

"The Abbey," I replied, "is in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin."

"No, I mean the one in the Saint Germain district, near the Sour Bean."

My virtuous sister is perhaps the finest woman psychiatrist in Chicago, which is to say the finest of any. However, her geography leaves something to be desired.

"St-Germain-des-Prés,"I said, "across the Luxembourg Gardens from the Sorbonne."

"Whatever"-she dismissed my cavils as irrelevant—"it's an eleventh-century convent."

If it were it would be a precious museum. Seventeenth century more likely.

"I don't like convents."

"Don't be ridiculous, it's darling. Right near the Saint Surplus metro stop."

"St-Sulpice," I said.

"Whatever ... Well, I've told Nora about it."


I did not tell her that l'abbaye St-Germain was right around the corner from the Institut Catholique—the Catholic presence near the Latin Quarter after theology had been forced out of the Sorbonne, St. Thomas Aquinas's university. That information was utterly irrelevant. Besides, what did I know?

So the matter had been settled. The family had once again made sure that I would act right, despite my proclivities not to do so. In fact, I would accompany Sean Cronin to the ends of the earth. I had no doubt that he could get to the aforementioned outer limits without my help, but he would not be able to return unless I were along for the ride.

The phone rang again. Crystal Lane, our resident mystic and youth minister, who answered phones until the Megan (four porter persons with the same name) appeared after school.

"Senator Cronin, Bishop Blackie."

"Thank you, Crystal."

"I'll pray for you while you're away on the trip."

That would not be an innovation. Crystal prayed all the time for everyone. Even she knew about the ill-advised journey. Even before I did.

"Thank you, Crystal," I said with my heavy West-of-Ireland sigh. "I'm sure I'll need the prayers."

"Blackwood, you're a dear," Nora Cronin began.


"Poor Sean needs time away from Chicago."

The word "poor" on the lips of an Irishwoman indicated high praise.


"And so do you."

This was simply not true. I never need to be away from Chicago. Even in the winter.


"It's very sweet of you to come. I'm sure we'll have a wonderful time. You know everything about Paris."

The Lady Nora thought I was adorable.

"It will do as a city," I admitted.

They had been lovers long ago, adulterous and sacrilegious lovers. Passions like that never really go away. I would accompany them so that they would be reassured that the passions would not escape from the currents in which they had been controlled for decades. I knew well that nothing like that could ever happen. But they didn't.

I had been to the City of Lights despite my pretense that I had not. It had a terrible, blood-soaked history. I knew too much of that history to enjoy my visit. I am not psychic like my friend and colleague Nuala Anne McGrail, but there were too many ghosts-of peasants and queens, of saints and sinners, of innocents and monsters-wandering about. However, the French, with the exception of their politicians, their intellectuals and their clergy, were nice people-just like every other people, though patently not as nice as the Irish.

Truth to tell, I liked sparring with the haughty French hierarchs I had encountered. I looked forward with considerable interest to this delightful amusement.

There was, of course, the interesting matter of the TV priest who had leaped back into the third century.


Copyright © 2001 by Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.

Meet the Author

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, "The Church in Society," at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

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Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain (Blackie Ryan Series) 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the blink of an eye, the charismatic and incredibly handsome Frere Jean Claude Chretien becomes the toast of France through his dynamic TV sermons. While filming a show on the excavations at Notre Dame Cathedral, Frere Jean Claude vanishes. Desperate to reduce the uproar over the missing Frere Jean Claude, the Archbishop of Paris, aware of American Bishop Blackie Ryan¿s sleuthing skills, asks the priest¿s boss Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Cronin for help. Naturally, Cardinal Cronin assigns Blackie to solve the case while accompanying his subordinate to France.

In Paris, Blackie begins to investigate. In front of St-Germain des Pres Church he meets Marie-Bernadette begging for money. When he learns she speaks English, Blackie hires her as his translator while he sifts through clues. However, as they work together, the duo soon learns that much of the French establishment do not want this case resolved.

THE BISHOP AND THE BEGGAR GIRL OF ST. GERMAIN is an entertaining cozy starring an intriguing priest. Blackie is a wonderful character, but the addition of Marie-Bernadette as his sidekick adds depth while her cynical wisecracking keeps him and the readers amused. The mystery is clever, but the story line slowly moves forward. Fans of Andrew Greeley will appreciate his latest tale, but anyone who wants action need to go to a different pew.

Harriet Klausner

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Guest More than 1 year ago
This tale is a complete mindblower. It's like another "Sixth Sense." Again, Andy G. has wowed us with another eerie mystery and wham-o ending. This one you gotta read!