cover image Seed of Doubt

Seed of Doubt

Ralph M. McInerny. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (346pp) ISBN 978-0-312-09381-5

Although the unflappable Father Dowling plays a fairly slender role in his 16th case, fans of the sleuthing priest will surely welcome the heftier-than-usual read McInerny provides here. Margaret Sinclair, peppery scion of a wealthy small-town Illinois family, dies unexpectedly and surprises most of the Sinclair clan by leaving her fortune to set up a foundation. To her great-granddaughter Peggy, she wills a diary of her short-lived marriage, which ended in tragedy, and a valuable portrait of herself by noted artist Clayton Ford. While Margaret's relatives wrangle over the will, the skittish director of a local museum uses the confusion to steal a lesser known Ford portrait loaned by Margaret, although his plan to flog it to a shady art dealer goes wildly awry. In this intentionally transparent plot--we see the deeds and know the doers--the only question is how long it will take Fr. Dowling and the bumbling police force to figure out where they went wrong. Even the tantalizing promise of the contents of Margaret's diary fizzles in the denouement. Nevertheless, McInerny delivers a comfy unreality in this genteel whodunit, graced with the trappings of a traditional Catholicism. (May)