cover image Four on the Floor

Four on the Floor

Ralph M. McInerny. St. Martin's Press, $15.95 (199pp) ISBN 978-0-312-03345-3

The 13th entry in the Father Dowling series is disappointing and trite. McInerny's predictable formula does not work well in this anthology format; the introduction in each story of the regular cast of characters--Father Dowling, Marie Murkin, Captain Phil Keegan and Edna Hospers--becomes tedious and annoying. The volume gets off to a poor start with the weakest novella, the hackneyed and poorly constructed ``The Ferocious Father,'' but it picks up with the second and strongest, ``Heart of Gold.'' In the latter, Father Dowling is called to investigate when an old man is kidnapped from the church's social center. It turns out that the victim is an ex-con who was imprisoned for embezzling from the bank where he worked as an accountant, and that his kidnappers--who may be his own sons--think he still has the loot. Then his body, riddled with seven bullets, turns up, and Father Dowling goes hunting for his killers. The last two stories, ``The Dead Weight Lifter'' and ``The Dutiful Son,'' are familiar, inoffensive time-passers, in which Father Dowling solves problems more through his intimate knowledge of his parishioners and his town than through any real detection or action. For fanatical fans only. (Dec.)