Power in the Blood: A John Jordan Mystery

Michael Lister, Author Pineapple Press $18.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-56164-137-6

John Jordan, an ex-cop, onetime minister of a prosperous church and recovering alcoholic, is now chaplain at a Florida state prison. Investigating the murder of an inmate during a faked escape attempt, Jordan encounters prison intrigues and personal temptations. While working with his former father-in-law, a corrections department inspector who hates him, Jordan maintains a frustratingly platonic relationship with a prison manager, sexy Anna Rodden, and harbors impure thoughts about his Fed-Ex delivery driver, Laura. He also fears that he may have AIDS because of exposure to the blood of a wounded HIV-positive inmate. The investigation suggests that a sadistic guard may be smuggling cons out to town for some illegal purpose. The action picks up when a local banker with a prison connection is murdered. A second prisoner is killed, and so is a prisoner's wife. Although Lister, a real-life prison chaplain who knows his turf, delivers gritty portrayals of inmates and prison workers, his first novel turns preachy, and readers drawn to the hard-boiled plot and setting may find the sermons stilted. At least he's morally honest: he offers redemption for his convicts but little false hope of correction for most of them. (Sept.)