cover image The Devil's Diary

The Devil's Diary

Patrick McGinley. St. Martin's Press, $16.95 (249pp) ISBN 978-0-312-02193-1

A psychological mystery with haunting overtones, this novel focuses on a priest tormented by the loss of the Gaelic culture, by the increasing worldliness of religion and by his own sexual desires. After a long illness, Father Jerry McSharry returns home to rural Ireland. The peaceful village he remembers no longer exists; his childhood playmate, Arty Brennan, a poor boy who returned wealthy after 10 years in America, has brought prosperity to the area. To Father Jerry, these changes are ``monstrosities that leapt aggressively to the eye.'' Olga, a sculptor to whom Father Jerry is drawn, seems to be attracted to him but she also admires Brennan. Then Father Jerry's brother Hugo comes back to the village and purchases a farm coveted by Brennan. Hugo becomes the butt of malicious pranks for which he believes Brennan is responsible. Father Jerry doesn't quite believe him until he and Hugo narrowly escape a car crash. Later, Brennan is found dead, and Father Jerry discovers Hugo's ``diary'' and reads the latest entry: a compelling, supposedly fictional account of Brennan's disappearance. The priest finds himself drawn into the ambivalent world of the diary, which reflects his deepest, darkest thoughts and desires. McGinley ( The Red Men , Foxprints ) tells an evocative, disturbing story of a man who wants to pursue a life of ``work, study, and prayer alone'' but who is distracted by the world in which he lives. (October)