McInerney’s third collection of short whodunits featuring Fr. Roger Dowling (after 2009’s The Wisdom of Father Dowling) is a great introduction to the quiet but wise clerical sleuth for newcomers. Not all of the 16 cases Dowling investigates are brain-stumpers, but their charm stems from the characters and their community of Fox River, Ill. The opening tale, “Occult Compensation,” in which a fortune in cash is left in a suitcase at the St. Hilary parish house, offers a particularly interesting setup. Some fine prose is another pleasure, as in the beginning of “The Lottery of Life,” which describes how the change in the importance of American waterways shaped Fox River. McInerny (1929–2010) didn’t have G.K. Chesterton’s facility for incorporating spiritual messages into engrossing murder puzzles, but those whose sights are set a bit lower will be rewarded. (Dec.)
For those seeking cozier short stories, this new compilation (following The Wisdom of Father Dowling) nicely fills a niche. The 16 stories have all appeared before, mostly in the serial Catholic Dossier, but not in one anthology. It is hard not to enjoy Midwesterner Father Dowling's subtle detecting and his housekeeper Marie's earnestness. VERDICT The late McInerny (1929–2010) cut a wide swath of followers during his long writing career. These gems will remind readers how the benevolent Father Dowling always walked the walk; no false homilies with this guy.
Sixteen short stories dating from 1992 to 2002, all save one previously published in Catholic Dossier. McInerny, who passed away last year, had a wry touch with the foibles of the senior citizens who congregated at St. Hilary's. Series regulars featured here include busybody Marie, the residence housekeeper, and her arch rival Edna, the gym-turned-elder-center volunteer; Amos, Fox River's most successful attorney, and Tuttle, its most slapdash; competent police veterans Keegan and Horvath, and ne'er-do-well Peanuts Pianone. And, of course, there's the steadying presence of Father Dowling himself, enjoying his pipe, his non-decaf coffee and his abiding morality. Among the problems arising in the collection are counterfeit $50 bills left in the collection plate, a key to riches embedded in a coffin's satin lining, art theft and death by a scarf, by poison, by blunt instrument and by asphyxia caused by a whack by a car trunk. "The Fat Cat," arguably the collection's drollest story, revolves around a deceased feline, but perhaps the most troublesome antics at St. Hilary's are caused by love, which causes geriatrics to act like teenagers, gossip to run amok and family members to cuddle up to weapons of their choice. A genteel assembly, with a nod to Catholic mainstays like Bingo and approaching decrepitude, from an author who will be missed.