cover image The Red Hat

The Red Hat

Ralph M. McInerny. Ignatius Press, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-89870-681-9

There's plenty of incident in McInerny's new thriller. The mother of a priest's illegitimate child is murdered. The controversial author of a book about the decline of the church in America is named U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and battles a wily fundamentalist senator. Two popes die. Archbishop Tom Lannan of Washington, D.C., is twice named a cardinal and twice denied his red hat by ironic circumstance. Liberal clergy approach schism by setting up an independent American Church. But incident can't save this broadsheet in novel's clothing. McInerny, a Notre Dame philosophy professor and author of the Father Dowling mystery series, shows more flair for polemicizing than for telling a story. If the author's jeremiads (""Most Catholics have become Protestants"" and ""yesterday's dissent has become today's orthodoxy"") ring true for some readers and enrage others, the fiction will bore them universally. Characterization is bland. The characters all sound exactly the same, and anyone without Latin and a deep knowledge of church history would have benefited from a glossary and footnotes. (Mar.)