A lawyer investigates the murder of her friend and colleague and another victim, which leads her down a gory and dark trail involving underworld connections, secretly sinister upstanding members of society, and helps her find the truth about her colleague, and eventually catch the killer. An interesting and introspective book with religious overtones that some might like and others might not appreciate. There are four main protagonists: Father Michael, a young Catholic priest; June Nealon, a widow who has lost two husbands and a daughter; Maggie Bloom, a lawyer; and Lucius DeFresne, a convicted murderer who is dying in jail from AIDS. It's a pretty long book, so I'll try to condense it here.
In the book's prologue, June's first husband dies in a car accident and she marries a policeman named Kurt He becomes a stepfather to her daughter by her first husband, Elizabeth. When June and Kurt need a new nursery built (for the soon-to-be second daughter), they hire Shay, a carpenter. Both Kurt and Elizabeth are found murdered and Shay is accused of both murdering them and sexually molesting Elizabeth. In his trial, one of the jurors is Michael (before he becomes a priest) and the jury finds Shay guilty even though there is not much evidence, so Shay is sentenced to death. Michael later goes on to feel very guilty about this because he does not feel it was a just verdict, and as part of finding a way to work through his guilt, he becomes a priest.
The book then jumps eleven years in time. Lucius, the convicted murderer dying of AIDS, has come to know Shay and thinks Shay is strange, kind, and inexplicably non-judgmental. He also learns that Shay wants to donate his heart to a girl named Claire, who is the daughter of Kurt and June (who Shay was building the nursery for). Shay constantly asks to donate his heart to Claire, but everyone ignores him. Meanwhile, "miracles" start happening in the prison. Water from the faucets turns to wine, Shay tips off a prison guard that his daughter has a nut allergy, dead animals come back to life, and so on. He even heals Lucius of his AIDS. This causes widespread media attention and publicity, bring Michael back into Shay's life but this time as a priest. A lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, Maggie Bloom, uses Shay as her poster child in the fight to remove the death penalty (despite personally finding Shay a little strange) and advocates on his behalf to let him be granted the opportunity to donate his heart to Claire. However, Claire's mother June refuses. Claire's condition gets worse and worse.
Father Michael starts to believe that Shay might be Jesus after seeing him perform more miracles, while Maggie seeks to at least change Shay's sentence to hanging instead of lethal injection in order to preserve Shay's heart for donation. When the hearing begins for the question of whether Shay should be allowed to donate his heart and so be hanged instead of injected, this time Father Michael advocates on Shay's behalf. A lot of his arguments are religious ones couched in the Gnostic Gospels.
Shay finally confesses the truth to Father Michael. He says he never wanted to hurt Elizabeth, and found her being sexually assaulted by Kurt one day. When he walked in on them Kurt drew his gun (he was a policeman). Shay tried to get the gun out of his hand. In the ensuing confusion, the gun fired and accidentally killed Elizabeth, which made Shay murder Kurt.
The hearing results in Shay being allowed to be hanged, and his hanging happens soon after. His heart is donated to Claire because June realizes that this is likely the only chance she'll get to save her daughter's life. The heart transplant is successful and June and Claire live together happily, struggling to come to terms with the source of Claire's heart but moving on. Father Michael moves on too, thinking he was an idiot for believing that Shay was Jesus come again. However, in the epilogue, it seems like some of Shay's magic lives on, since Claire brings the family dog back to life.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved that the protagonist was a pretty feminist figure and little attention was paid to her romances or "drama" in her life.
Best scene in story:
when Michael reveals to Shay that he was on the jury when Shay was on trial for murder, and Shay gets angry and tells Michael to leave. That was a rare "human" moment from Shay, a sort of flaw of human emotion.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked that it was an introspective book that asked a lot of questions about morality and forgiveness, but what I didn't like was that it was also trite and boring.