St. Martin's, Jul 2002, 24,95, 384 pp.
Father Roger Dowling leaves St. Hilary's Parish for his annual retreat with the Athanasians, a Catholic religious order that includes seven aging priests with no new blood in years. Though the long-term outlook appears to be the same as what happened to the Shakers, the small order owns the rights to Marygrove, a grand estate near Chicago given to the Athanasians by a late business mogul.
However, the very value of the property makes Marygrove in demand by avarice phonies including the grandson of the order's late benefactor. All of these souls want to use the estate for personal gain. Though each one of these outsiders will do almost anything to obtain an advantage, one of them resorts to murder, killing two people. Father Dowling investigates the homicides in an effort to determine who broke the Commandment and to thwart any other slayings.
The insight into a small dying religious order and their secular squabbles provide interesting depth to the who-done-it story line. Though Father Dowling remains a charming character he seems less sharp in PRODIGAL FATHER than usual perhaps because Mrs. Murkin is not around much to murky the waters. Still the Father Dowling flock will enjoy his latest amateur sleuth tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner