cover image LAST THINGS: A Father Dowling Mystery

LAST THINGS: A Father Dowling Mystery

Ralph M. McInerny, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-312-30899-5

Father Dowling's 22nd absorbing outing (after 2002's Prodigal Father) from the prolific McInerny is guaranteed to mystify. Ill with prostate cancer, Fulvio Bernardo, patriarch of a wealthy and influential Chicago-area family, despairs of his three children. Raymond, the eldest, was ordained a priest and was the great white hope of St. Edmund's College until he took off for California with a nun and the nun's order's car and credit card. Daughter Jessica is an author with a contract for a novel of which the lightly disguised subject is her own family. Younger son Andrew is an English professor at St. Edmund's; enter Horst Cassirer, a brilliant Ph.D. who has recently joined the department and wants tenure immediately. But his fellow professors, despite his high reputation as a researcher, find him deficient as a teacher and colleague and reject his bid. Following the deaths of Fulvio and Raymond's Edmundite mentor comes the requisite third tragedy: Cassirer's battered body is found lying in the street. Suspects abound and the suspense builds until the final chapter, when Father Dowling has a flash of inspiration. The plot moves crisply on the wings of believable dialogue among the multitude of well-drawn college-town characters. As always, McInerny explains just enough about Catholicism to make non-Catholic readers feel at home. (July 7)

FYI:The "last things" of the title are death, judgment, heaven and hell. McInerny is also the author of Celt and Pepper (2002) and other titles in his Notre Dame mystery series.