The Compassion of Father Dowling

Ralph McInerny. Five Star, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4328-2510-2
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.)
Reviewed on: 10/17/2011
Release date: 12/01/2011
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Hardcover - 509 pages - 978-1-4104-4663-3
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