cover image Pious Deception

Pious Deception

Susan Dunlap. Villard Books, $16.95 (209pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57168-3

At the promising start to a new detective series by the author of the Jill Smith mysteries, a young priest is found hanged in particularly compromising circumstances in his parish church in Phoenix, Ariz. To determine whether the death was suicide or murder, the diocese's bishop calls upon Kiernan O'Shaughnessy, a young medical examiner turned private eye. Kiernan runs into obstacles at every turn, not the least of which are the cremation of the priest's body before an autopsy could be performed and her name forged on his false death certificate. While struggling with her own painful memories dredged up by the case, Kiernan uncovers a clan of hostile mountain villagers, a bizarre castle, a hidden shelter for abused women, and the diocese's plan to build an elegant retreat-resort in the nearby White Bone Mountains. Feisty Kiernan has appeal, but her debut is overburdened with subplots, complaints about the weather and hard-to-credit emotional conflicts regarding Kiernan's sister. (Aug.)