cover image Desert Sinner

Desert Sinner

Ralph M. McInerny. St. Martin's Press, $16.95 (182pp) ISBN 978-0-312-08177-5

The latest mystery from McInerney ( Judas Priest ), a competent, unremarkable addition to his Father Dowling series, has the glib neatness of a pilot for a TV series. Although Dowling has serious reservations about the verdict, his friend Phil Keegan, chief of detectives in Fox River, is pleased with the murder conviction of former showgirl Stacey Wilson, whose rich playboy of a husband was found dead on his yacht on Lake Michigan. Keegan's plain, middle-aged secretary Elaine McCorkle, a member of Dowling's parish, is being wooed by a mysterious young man who suggests he is Stacey's natural son and who persuades Elaine to steal case evidence for him. When Elaine's former beau drowns in his bathtub, Dowling's suspicions are fully activated; he talks to Stacey in prison and begins snooping into the secretary's love affair. Stock characters and few surprises fail to spark life into this flat tale. (Nov.)