A suspicious death exposes the seamy underbelly of the post-Vatican II Catholic Church.
When a young ex-priest hangs himself, the Los Angeles archdiocese calls in Monsignor Nick Hartery to keep the Church out of the headlines. Nick’s a connected operator who â€œsounded closer to God than he was,” but he does have an inconveniently active conscience. He keeps a lid on the scandal, but when the autopsy hints at foul play rather than suicide, he starts to investigate. It’s 1967, and as Nick probes into dark secrets, he’s also embroiled in the culture wars that are tearing the Church apart. On one side is the reactionary Cardinal Tierney, implacable foe of civil rights, organized labor, feminism and the vernacular Mass. On the other are the rebellious Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who are hellbent on updating their order and their outfits. Nick knows where his heart lies–he’s guiltily in love with the Sacred Heart’s firebrand Mother Superior. But his head tells him to tread carefully as his sleuthing zeroes in on Monsignor Duryea, the Cardinal’s powerful aide, who’s up to his eyeballs in shady financial deals and was carrying on a homosexual affair with the dead man. Prodded by a young Catholic mystic with psychic powers, Nick sets out to redeem a Church that he only half believes in. Burke builds this searching mystery, as much psychological as procedural, around a set of sharply drawn but nuanced character studies: Nick, wanting power for the good that it can do, but beset by qualms over its misuse; Duryea, in love with power for its own sake, happy to lose his soul if he can thereby gain the whole world.
An absorbing, darkly dramatic portrait of a Church mired in corruption and turmoil.