Prodigal Father (Father Dowling Series #21)by Ralph McInerny
Father Roger Dowling is a busy man. He's got the ambitious and all-encompassing task of running St. Hilary's Parish, dealing with his busybody housekeeper, Mrs. Murkin, and counseling his flock with his characteristic blend of faith and compassion. He's not complaining, but it's no surprise that even a superior priest like Father Dowling needs a break now and again. So off he heads for a week-long retreat in Indiana on the quiet grounds of an old Catholic religious order, where he can meditate, reflect, and pray for a quick recharge of his waning energy.
Unfortunately, Father Dowling's spiritual retreat turns into a baffling murder investigation when a dead man is found in a grotto on the grounds with the handle of an axe protruding from his back. Complicating matters is a long-running real-estate dispute that has pitted the brothers of the order against the previous owners of the huge and valuable piece of land on which their sanctuary sits.
Who could have killed the man and why, and does it have something to do with the high-stakes mind games being played out between the parties vying for the land? No one's too sure, but what is clear is that Father Dowling is once again at the center of it all in another winning entry in a mystery series that's become an institution.
Read an Excerpt
Moonlight softened the contours of the maintenance shed and lent an eerie opacity to the glass panels of the greenhouse. The line between nature and art blended, natural growth and the works of man fused in the altering light. Nocturnal life went on, a whirring racket emanating from the shadowed trees and hedges. An owl interrogated the night.
Paths reflecting the pale light, moons to the moon, linked shed and greenhouse with the lodge beyond. And with the grotto, where votive lights flickered in the hollowed rock. Our Lady opened her arms in a perpetual offer of help. All tenses seemed present there, permitting a glimpse into the future of these coordinates in space:
Strange primal sounds come from the maintenance shed, animal grunts, the toppling of tools that ring when they strike the concrete floor. The door of the shed bursts open. A single figure appears. He staggers along the path, nearly falling several times, righting himself, pushing on. When he comes to the grotto he all but collapses on the prie-dieu before the shrine. He falls forward as if in prayer. The ax handle emerging from his back glows in the moonlight.
PRODIGAL FATHER. Copyright © 2002 by Ralph McInerny. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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Father Roger Dowling leaves St. Hilary's Parish for his annual retreat with the Athanasians, a Catholic religious order that includes seven aging priests with no new blood in years. Though the long-term outlook appears to be the same as what happened to the Shakers, the small order owns the rights to Marygrove, a grand estate near Chicago given to the Athanasians by a late business mogul. However, the very value of the property makes Marygrove in demand by avarice phonies including the grandson of the order¿s late benefactor. All of these souls want to use the estate for personal gain. Though each one of these outsiders will do almost anything to obtain an advantage, one of them resorts to murder, killing two people. Father Dowling investigates the homicides in an effort to determine who broke the Commandment and to thwart any other slayings. The insight into a small dying religious order and their secular squabbles provide interesting depth to the who-done-it story line. Though Father Dowling remains a charming character he seems less sharp in PRODIGAL FATHER than usual perhaps because Mrs. Murkin is not around much to murky the waters. Still the Father Dowling flock will enjoy his latest amateur sleuth tale. Harriet Klausner