In THE SAINTMAKER by Mary Carroll Patrick, the murder is introduced in the opening pages, solved at the very end of the novel. In between, evidence is uncovered slowly, cumulatively. Tension builds. The protagonist worries. The authorities rant. Suspects and action abound.
Janet McNally Reed, a widow attempting to get beyond the loss of her murdered son, begins a new job, that of pastoral assistant at St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in College Station, Texas.
However, her hopes for peace and healing are dashed when she finds a body in the adoration chapel, a place for prayer usually open to the public twenty-four seven.
The victim is a lawyer seeking to atone for past misdeeds. From the start Janet Reed, keeper of the dead man’s secrets, becomes embroiled in the murder investigation. The prime suspect for a time, she persists with her own investigation, getting herself caught up in some sticky wickets, uncovering evidence until the murder is solved to the satisfaction of the authorities and, in the end, solved for the reader. (Sorry to be so cryptic, but elucidation would spoil.)
The narrative is told in the first person, from the point of view of a thirty or forty-something business woman steeped in her faith, yet not above an occasional salty phrase. (For this reader, the prose could have used a little more salt, especially in the beginning.)
The author’s voice is fresh, strong. The subculture of the Catholic parish is subtly portrayed and the sense of place is so strong that it becomes a character. I felt that I was right there in the chapel praying or in the office dealing with crises or with the bishop.
The two main characters–the protagonist and her long time friend, an atheist–have their own arc, and at the end of the story find a certain if muted sense of peace. They grow.
Themes include a longing for salvation, the vagaries of grace, and the difficulty of uncovering truth.
For this reviewer, the novel was engrossing. If you are a mystery buff, Catholic or not, you won’t want to miss the debut novel of Mary Carroll Patrick, THE SAINTMAKER.
My Rating: 4 Stars
About the Author. THE SAINTMAKER is Mary Carroll Patrick’s debut novel. She loves a mystery and her Catholic faith. Some of her favorite authors combine both: Ralph McInerny, Andrew Greeley and William Kienzle. Two have moved on to eternal life, and one is no longer writing. Determined not to let the genre die, she wrote The Saintmaker, her debut novel. Mary Carroll works in the Catholic communications field and lives in Texas with her husband and children.
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