ANGELS OF SEPTEMBER by Andrew M. Greeley
Kirkus Star


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Another commercial hash from Father Greeley (the second volume of his proposed trilogy, Time Between the Stars); this time Father Blackie Ryan and top cop Mickie Casey play ghostbusters to help save a woman who is--perhaps--possessed by demons. Anne Reilly is a beautiful Chicago art-gallery owner who is in her early 50s; as the novel opens, she's showing the work of Father Desmond Kenny, a ""gifted if insane"" priest/artist who ended his days in the loony bin. One of his paintings, ""Divine Justice"" (demons dragging sinners into hell), begins to disturb her, and soon weird things start to happen--strange phone calls only Anne can hear, the permeating smell of burning varnish, a mysterious explosion in her basement. Her two friends, Father Blackie Ryan and Deputy Superintendent of Police Mickie Casey (""His frosty blue eyes twinkled and his flinty cop's grin turned warm and gentle""), worry about her. Through their eyes, through a diary Anne keeps for her therapist, and through a great deal of the deadeningly earnest, psycho/sexual/religious mumbo-jumbo Greeley is known for, we learn that Anne had been, in 1935, one of the children who'd escaped the horrible Mother of Mercy elementary-school fire (which killed 90 children, including her two sisters). Later, a virginal beauty, she'd posed for ""Divine Justice"" as one of the frightened maidens, and Father Kenny had made demented passes at her. Now, two marriages and two annulments later, the painting comes alive--the demons leap out one night to attack and ravish her. She has a nervous breakdown and tells Blackie and Mickie that she's being punished because she was the one who set the Mother of Mercy fire. This turns out not to be true, but in an attempt to confront the problem, she and Mickie go to the gallery for a superbly ludicrous showdown with ""Divine Justice."" A ""fierce wind"" slams the door behind them: ""Apparently, they were sealed in the gallery with a diabolically possessed painting. . .'After it, Mickey!' she shouted. 'Use the fire extinguisher!' "" One searches in vain here for the oversexed clerics and juicy Church secrets that usually highlight Greeley's work: this is a slow-moving, preachy ""exploration"" of the ""supernatural"" which may represent Greeley's nadir as a novelist.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1985
Publisher: Warner