Wages of Sin

Wages of Sin

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by Penelope Williamson

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The body of a local priest is discovered in an abandoned New Orleans warehouse. Damon Rourke, the hard-nosed detective introduced in "Mortal Sins," attempts to catch a killer even as a shocking mystery is revealed.


The body of a local priest is discovered in an abandoned New Orleans warehouse. Damon Rourke, the hard-nosed detective introduced in "Mortal Sins," attempts to catch a killer even as a shocking mystery is revealed.

Editorial Reviews

Lorenzo Carcaterra
...a Gatorade-jolt of a story that covers every base...one of the most riveting stories of the past two decades--...a definite buy and hold.
James Toback
..an instructive and hilarious portrait of the twisted contemporary convergence of business, entertainment and crime...thoroughly engaging and original .
screenwriter of the Academy-Award winning “Bugsy” and director of The Pick-up Artist
T.J. English
...a voice that is brutally honest, disturbingly narcissistic, and often hilarious. Few authors have captured the dark side of American capitalism as entertainingly as Weiss...a knockout
Michael M. Thomas
..takes the reader to where it really gets nasty: the weird lunar landscape that is the truly dark side of Wall Street where crook steals from crook...terrific stuff.
James J. Cramer
You won’t know whether to laugh or cry at the machinations of this professional Wall Street con man. But you’ll be entertained either way.
author of CONFESSIONS OF A STREET ADDICT and markets commentator for TheStreet.com and CNBC
John Rothchild
...a rip-roaring read that makes you wonder: did Enron, Arthur Andersen, MCI Worldcom, dot.coms, lying analysts, and cynical stock floggers take lessons from Louis Pasciuto?
co-author of ONE UP ON WALL STREET
Publishers Weekly
Det. Daman Rourke is on the case of a murdered priest in this rousing thriller by Williamson (Mortal Sins) set in New Orleans in 1927. Rourke and his partner, Fiorello, have their hands full after a young hood on the run from the mob discovers the "crucified" corpse of Father Patrick Walsh, a popular clergyman who was disliked by Church hierarchy for his flamboyant preaching, which borrowed elements from evangelical Protestant services. When the coroner delivers the news that Father Walsh was actually female, the revelation, and the fear of its potential impact if leaked, fuels Rourke's determination to find the killer and close the case quietly. It seems Father Walsh developed an underground protection network for abused wives that angered Father Ghilotti, a fellow priest. To complicate matters, Rourke's brother Paul is also a priest at the rectory, and he too has something to hide: an affair with a married woman. Parallel to the parish mayhem is Rourke's rekindled romance with glamorous New Orleans-born actress Remy Lelourie, who's been receiving threats written in blood from a stalker who calls himself Romeo. When teenage girls in Remy's fan club turn up murdered, Rourke puts his investigative skills into high gear. Williamson entwines the two murder plots and speeds toward a surprising, exhilarating conclusion. Though much of the vernacular is unabashedly contemporary, she goes far in evoking the giddy atmosphere of Jazz Age New Orleans as well as its dark underside, rife with wanton violence, prejudice and racial tension. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mortal Sins' Detective Damon Rourke investigates the crucifixion of a priest who turns out to be a woman. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Hachette Book Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.11(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Wages of Sin

By Penelope Williamson

Warner Books

Copyright © 2003 Penelope Williamson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0446528412

Chapter One

New Orleans, 1927

Tonight, he would write to her with his own blood. He'd been planning the letter for some time now, ever since this one movie that he'd seen: a spectacle film where a Russian peasant girl lay dying and they brought in the doctor to bleed her. The director had shot a decent close-up of the lancing blade piercing flesh, opening up a vein into a bowl, and then the optical effects guy had doused the camera lens with blood. They'd probably used pig's blood, but on the par speed film it had looked like ink and that was when the idea first came to him. About how he could warn her by writing to her with his blood.

Not that he had bothered with giving much of a warning to the others, hadn't really given them a chance to save themselves. Fuck 'em. They wouldn't have listened anyway. Always, when a new one was first chosen, he'd feel some hope that this time it would be different. But after he had watched them for a while, after he'd looked into their hearts and seen the real them, he always came around to accepting the inevitable: that even death couldn't redeem the hopelessly lost.

And yeah, okay, okay, sometimes he did go ahead and fuck them anyway before he killed them. It was only sex, after all, and he was never selfish about it. He always tried to make itgood for them, too. To give them a few moments of sweet pleasure, however fleeting, before that big postcoital sleep.

Anyway, the others ... call them small sacrifices of appeasement, if you will, because ultimately she was the only one truly worthy of salvation. She wasn't a chosen one, she was the chosen one, but she was also his one. She was his love, his destiny, the only reason he had for drawing breath. So it followed, ipso frigging facto, that if killing her was the only way to save her, then he'd have to kill himself as well. They'd have to die together, just like Juliet and her Romeo.

"Romeo," he said aloud and tried to laugh, but the noise he made sounded too much like a sob. "Yeah, that's what I am to you, baby. I'm your fuckin' Romeo, so don't you make me do it. What do you say, huh? Don't you make me do it ..."

Christ, but he hated sad endings. He was always the poor sap sitting way in the back, in the dark, holding out hope until the bitter end that Juliet would wake up before Romeo swallowed the poison and died.

When the idea had first come to Romeo-to sacrifice a little of his own blood in the pursuit of his true love's salvation-he had tried pricking himself with a pocketknife and writing to her with his bleeding fingertip. The letters came out all smudgy and smeared, though, and he'd snatched up the paper, crumpling it in his fist, and thrown it against the wall.

The walls were plastered with her face: glossy publicity stills and pages torn from fan magazines. Grainy tabloid shots and candid ones he'd taken himself. He'd surrounded himself with her image because she was beautiful and she was his, but the special keepsake, the one that mattered, he'd put into a silver frame next to their bed. In it her head is tilted back and her wide, scornful mouth is laughing, and she is pushing her fingers through her dark, shingled hair. The whole world had seen her do that a thousand times, but only he knew what it meant.

"Hey, never mind, baby," he had said to her that day, kissing her, and the glass that covered her face was cool against his lips. "We don't want to rush into this anyway, 'cause when we do it, we want it to be right."

What he needed, he had told her, was a set of bleeding knives. You couldn't just walk on down to the drugstore, though, and ask the guy behind the counter for such a thing, and maybe the truth was he hadn't even been looking so hard. Then this morning he'd been strolling along Rampart Street and not even thinking about her for a change, when his eye had been caught by something in the window of a curiosity shop. It had a thick tortoiseshell handle and its three knives were spread out in a fan for display, and he recognized it instantly as the instrument that the doctor had used on the Russian peasant girl.

The shop owner was wrinkled like a dried seed pod and had eyeglasses the size of thumbprints perched on the end of his nose. He peered at Romeo through those funny little glasses as if he knew all and he approved. "These are lovely knives," he said, as he polished the blades with an oily rag. "Lovely, lovely. In our modern day we think of bloodletting as barbaric, but in truth it often did more good than harm. Lowering the patient's temperature and inducing a calm state of mind. And in some ancient societies bloodletting was a rite of purification."

"No kidding?" Romeo smiled. He didn't give a shit about ancient societies, but the love he felt for her was so rare and beautiful and pure that surely it deserved its own ritual.

He walked home slowly with the knives in his pocket. He relished their weight, anticipating what he would do with them. He rounded the corner onto Canal Street and walked into the back of a crowd that had gathered to watch a couple of paper hangers glue sheets to an enormous billboard on the roof of the new Saenger Theatre. He stopped to watch the men at work, as first her eyes appeared and her mouth and then her neck. Eventually all of her was spread out on the board, and he saw that she was lying crossways on a bed like a spent lover-her head hanging down over the side, her arms flung out wide-to advertise her latest flick, Lost Souls. It was a wildly innovative and truly scary movie about a dead woman whose haunted, restless soul leaves her grave at night and takes the form of a vampire bat to suck the blood out of the living, and only a star like her could ever have pulled it off.

Romeo laughed out loud so that a few in the crowd left off staring at her to stare at him. He didn't care; they were fools, especially the women. They'd all be wearing bloodred lips and bat-wing capes by the end of the week. They tried so hard to look like her: bobbing their hair like hers, trying to paint her exotic face on top of their own, even trying to copy that smooth and languorous way she had of moving. Believing that their flattery and worship gave them ownership over her, when she would never belong to anyone but him.

He'd shot enough junk into himself to know how to apply a tourniquet and pump up a vein, but the oddity of the bleeding knives had him nervous. Each of the set's three knives had two blades, a long one on the bottom that ended in a hooked point and a smaller, triangular-shaped blade on top. He had no idea which to use and that worried him. He didn't want to butcher himself and end up bleeding to death. Christ, he thought, but wouldn't that be just too fucking much, if he ended up leaving this vale of tears without her.

He tested the edge of one of the hooked blades and he smiled. Sharp enough to cut through skin and flesh and bleeding veins. He hummed to himself as he brought his shooter's kit from out of its hiding place and took a soup bowl from out of the kitchen cupboard. He was flying high, but it was a pure high, coming from the moment. He wrapped a length of thin rubber tubing around his arm and tied it tight with one hand and his teeth. He made a fist. The veins in the crook of his elbow bulged blue against his skin.

He stared at the knife and his high trembled a little as it slid toward the edge of fear, then he thought, Fuck it, and he picked up the knife and pressed the point of the top blade into the pulsing vein.

He let out a little yelp of pain, and dropped the knife as blood spurted bright red jets into the air. His blood. The thought frightened and exhilarated him, and he stared at it, red and thick and pulsating out of his flesh in an arc, until he remembered to hold his arm over the bowl.

The blood was so beautiful. He almost left it until too late to release the tourniquet.

He pressed the heel of his hand into the cut he'd made. He blinked, swaying on his feet. His head felt thick, his body heavy, as if he was just coming down off a nod. He looked around, bemused, at the splatters of blood on the primrose yellow wallpaper, the pools of it on the brown linoleum floor, but his imagination was already leaping ahead to the moment when she would read his words and understand how she had to wise up and save herself, had to save them before it was too late. No more other men, no more other loves. Just Juliet and her Romeo.

He wouldn't make the mistake of sending the letter through the mail. She got twenty thousand letters a week from her fans, each one carefully answered by studio secretaries who typed out the same reply over and over and rubber-stamped her signature. He wanted her, and only her, to see these words, written in his blood, and so he would have to deliver it himself to a place where only she would find it.

He picked up the fountain pen that he'd bought for just this moment-an automatic shading pen used, the young woman in the stationery store had told him, for fancy lettering and show card writing. He'd already spent hours planning what he would write: the single, perfect sentence that would make her understand how desperate the situation was, how she had to change things before it was too late.

He filled the pen's pearl barrel with his blood. He held the fat gold nib poised for a moment over the pristine sheet of paper, and then he wrote.

Are you scared yet, Remy?


Excerpted from Wages of Sin by Penelope Williamson Copyright © 2003 by Penelope Williamson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Wages of Sin 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1927, there are few events, including murder, that would shock the residents of New Orleans. Even the recent deaths of teenage fans of silent screen queen Remy LeLourie hardly dent the demeanor of the citizens. However, the crucifix torture killing of Father Patrick Walsh, perhaps the most popular priest in the city, stuns even the most decadent individual. Homicide Detective Damon Rourke leads the inquiries into the murder of Father Walsh. He believes a link exists between that homicide and the rash of female teen deaths who cult worship his lover Remy. He also feels that a connection exists to another crime that has divided the city. He never sleeps as he searches for the thread that will tie these seemingly three different situations together and lead to the culprit(s). Damon finds clue after clue, but the clock ticks with little progress. WAGES OF SIN is a superb historical police procedural that brings alive the 1920s in New Orleans. The story line is no stop action as the workaholic Damon ignores his lover, his daughter, and his health to find the blood line that runs through each case like beads on a necklace. Read very carefully this tale as Penelope Williamson reveals all the clues. However, if not closely followed, the final twist will surprise the audience who will realize that the author hid nothing yet succeeded with a delightful sleight of the hand early twentieth century who-done-it. Harriet Klausner
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an incredible read you will stay glued to these pages... the question to ask is, where is the sequel ?