The Bishop and the Three Kings A Blackie Ryan Novel
Andrew M. Greeley
The Berkley Publishing Group a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1998, 298 pp.
Bishop John Blackwood Ryan, Blackie to his friends, is the auxiliary bishop of Chicago serving Sean Cardinal Cronin, the cardinal archbishop of Chicago. When not attending to pastoral duties, he doubles as an amateur detective solving mysteries.
In this book Blackie is ordered to Cologne Germany by the Cardinal to assist Claus Maria, Heinrich, Rupert Eugen, Graf von Obermann, the cardinal archbishop of Cologne in quietly recovering the relics, and the gold casket they are kept in, of the Three Kings, or Magi, who visited Jesus at his birth. The relics have been stolen and must be quietly retrieved and returned least the world learn that they are actually medieval fakes. Cardinal Cronin, a Chicago Irish politician at heart as well as a prince of the Church, sees this as a chance to help a fellow cardinal and pick up a marker for future political dealings. Thus, Bishop Blackie is dispatched to quietly find and retrieve the relics.
Blackie is joined in the trip by his nephew, Peter Murphy, who recently received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has a few months off before his new teaching job begins. It is actually Peter's mother's idea for him to accompany her brother, the Bishop, on the trip. Peter's mother knows that Peter's first love, Cindasue McCloud, is a Coast Guard attachι at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn and, now that Peter has completed his education, his mother feels it would be nice for him to settle down and get married. Cindasue apparently has the same idea as Peter's mother as she convinces her superiors at the embassy to let her assist her countrymen on this delicate mission.
In typical Greeley fashion we have a budding romance and two mysteries. In this case the first mystery is the missing relics and the second is Cindasue's background. Beneath her shy, Appalachian hick facade is a brilliant and talented woman. But both Blackie and his nephew see the facade as hiding a far deeper childhood emotional trauma and this must be discovered and faced if she and Peter are to have a future together.
Cindasue first appeared in an earlier novel as a petty officer in the Coast Guard stationed near the Ryan's summer home at Grand Beach on Lake Michigan. After helping the family solve a mystery in that book she was adopted by the family and became the first love of Peter. But the love withered as Peter went to the University of Chicago and Cindasue to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. However, the family stayed in touch and Peter's Irish American mother now sees a chance to bring the two back together. The fact that Cindasue is a Baptist of Scott Irish stock from Stinking Creek (Stinkin' Crik to her), West Virginia does not bother the Irish Catholic Ryans of Chicago.
The book is fast paced and holds the reader's attention. As in other Greeley novels, there is a good blend of historical fact, religion and fiction along with good character development.
This report prepared by Chuck Nugent