cover image The Third Miracle

The Third Miracle

Richard Vetere. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $22 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0413-2

Deftly plotted, dramatic and entertaining, this is a provoking mystery about the nature and rewards of faith and forgiveness. The title refers to the third miracle that must be attributed to a person before he or she can become a saint. Father Frank Moore, a Catholic priest who's lost his faith, is charged by his Cardinal to investigate a petition ""for the pursuit of the ordinary process of canonization for Helen Stephenson."" Calling himself ""the miracle-killer,"" Frank lost his faith after his previous investigation--into the canonization of his mentor, Father Falcone--led to a discovery that shattered his own soul and disillusioned the community that had venerated the beloved priest. Since then, Frank has been living in an SRO hotel and taking his meals at a homeless shelter. But the powerful and power-loving Cardinal Charles Cahill tracks him down to give him the assignment. Frank, who feels his life has no purpose, who loves no one and for whom God is a childhood memory, has no choice but to accept it. So he begins inquiring into the background of Stephenson, a widowed lay person who lived and died in a convent in Queens and in whose name a statue of the Virgin Mary is said to cry tears of real blood. Probing into her past and the miracle cures that have taken place in her name, Frank meets Stephenson's bitter, hostile, divorced 30-year-old daughter, Roxanna, with whom he falls in love. A special canonization tribunal eventually is sent from Rome, with the resulting ecclesiastical trial proving as suspenseful, tense and exciting as any secular one. Vetere (screenwriter of Gangster Apparel) writes thin prose that often reads like a screen treatment. But his pacing is sure, and he strikes a nice balance between the sacred and the profane, exhibiting an appreciation of the mysteries of faith that is as genuine as his sense of the gritty day-to-day. Film rights to New Line Cinema, to be made into a feature film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. (June)