Minotaur, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
The Archdiocese decides to close down several parishes whose congregation has diminished. Among them is St. Hilary's of Fox River, Illinois. The priest Father Dowling understands the economics behind the decision, but worries for his flock. The St. Hilary's members and Father Dowling hope (and pray) they can save their church and begin an effort to do so, the “Save St. Hilary’s movement.
A nude female body is found hanging from the cross strut of a garage door. The police believe a ritual perhaps satanic homicide occurred. As the cops, reporters Tetzel and Rebecca and Father Dowling investigate they find a link to the divided Devere family. The nonagenarian matriarch Jane has used trust fund money to hire an author to write a book on Menotti’s church art to include a stained glass window provided to St. Hilary’s by her family; other Devere kin are outraged by her generosity, which apparently surfaces with more murders occurring.
This is the best Father Dowling mystery in several years as the amateur sleuth struggles with the impact of the economy most likely closing his church and the homicides that seem tied to the one of the deadly sins, avarice. The story line is intelligent although Father Dowling follows his usual method to solving felonies, but the back stories of the impact of the economy and the changing demographics of Fox River provide a terrific fresh look at St. Hilary’s and the church surviving in a modern world.