THE GATHERING

Douglas Thomas, Author . Univ. of Minnesota $22.95 (266p) ISBN 978-0-8166-3345-6

The 24th, and presumably final, Father Koesler "mystery" from the recently deceased Kienzle is a convoluted ramble through the lives of six adolescents who set out to become nuns and priests, and is a disappointing end for a series that sold some two million copies and established its author as a bestselling novelist of faith. The opening chapter finds the elderly Father Koesler vowing to investigate his friend Stanley Benson's recent demise under questionable circumstances. Kienzle then transports readers back to the early 1940s, introducing a young Robert Koesler and five other characters who feature prominently in the novel. Alice McMann is unsure about her vocation as a nun, but loves her friend Rose Smith and follows her lead toward the goal of religious orders. Rose's twin brother, Mike, is on the same path, as is Emanuel Tocco, a gifted athlete with a terrible temper. Stanley is duped into pursuing the priesthood by a crafty old priest who hopes to use him as a ticket to escape a bad parish. The novel is marred by one-dimensional characters, undeveloped subplots and frequent clichés. The prose combines an odd mix of formality, Latin and slang, and the narrative features awkward changes in point of view. Determined fans who stay with the story will be baffled by the final chapters' confusing and seemingly irrelevant tangents. Although faithful readers will likely buy this book to complete their collections, there's no compelling mystery here. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/01/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
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Paperback - 266 pages - 978-0-8166-3346-3
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