LORD OF THE DANCE by Andrew M. Greeley
Kirkus Star


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Hackneyed, belabored family-saga mystery in Chicago--with only a little bit of the priestly sinning that has made other Greeley novels into bestsellers. Noele Farrell--a bright and ""fey"" (i.e., psychic) teenager, daughter of politically aspiring Prof. Roger Farrell--has become dangerously curious about her family's past, digging into assorted buried secrets. Did her father's dashing cousin Danny (a young CIA recruit) really die in the Himalayas while flying a 1964 U-2 mission--or is he possibly still alive somewhere? And what about the ""accidental"" death (earlier that same year) of Noele's grandpa--drunken, violent tycoon Clancy Farrell? Was he really killed during a fight with Danny, who hated Clancy for his abuse of wife Brigid (who had virtually adopted orphan Danny)? So it seems. But, as Noele questions and sleuths, it becomes repetitiously clear that still other family skeletons are about to be shaken: the undying passion of Noele's mother Irene for Danny; the infidelities of grandma Brigid (now, still sexy at 59, married to her old flame); and the car-crash death of Danny's mother Florence in 1944--a Mafia killing, apparently, arranged (for business reasons) by evil Clancy. Unsurprisingly, then, the Farrells do a lot of worrying about Noele's curiosity. They also fret about more current secrets: Prof. Roger, a gubernatorial candidate, is having a serious affair with a young colleague; his handsome priest-brother John is getting flak from the Church about his TV talk-show; Irene is edging toward adultery with her clerical brother-in-law. And then cousin Danny reappears, released from a Chinese prison-camp thanks to Noele's inquiries. But, though Danny has lots of reason for revenge, he does good instead--loving Irene again, killing the Mafiosi who rape and sodomize Noele. . .and bringing out the real truth about Clancy's death in a Perry-Masonic confession fest. By that time, unfortunately, few readers will care who killed whom: Greeley's static narration, skipping tediously from one Farrell to another, extracts little suspense from the foolish cluster of clichÉd dynasty-subplots. Moreover, the characters here (unlike those in previous Greeleys) are singularly unappealing--while Greeley's preoccupation with sex seems downright sleazy this time. So, despite a pretentious afterword about ""Noele and the Church as correlatives"": Father G.'s weakest, trashiest effort thus far--though his readership, hoping for more inside-the-Church dirt, will probably turn out in large numbers. . . and be disappointed.

Pub Date: March 19th, 1984
Publisher: Warner