MORTAL GRACE by Edward Stewart


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Stewart (Deadly Rich, 1991, etc.) and his ace homicide detective Vincent Cardozo are at it again -- tracking and thwarting another Manhattan serial killer through the gripping and blood-spattered pages of this tidy thriller. The boundary between New York's blessed and depraved becomes blurry as brutally butchered adolescent bodies -- those of homeless hookers and junkies -- begin cropping up in styrofoam baskets around town and all clues point to Father Joe Montgomery's Upper East Side Episcopalian church, St. Andrews. Father Joe and his loyal reverend, Bonnie Ruskay, stage musicals for promising teens, counsel upper-crust parishioners, and provide outreach to dysfunctional, down-and-out, and dangerous youths. The cases of the murdered kids are covertly parceled out to different detectives in a move that looks to hawk-eyed Cardozo like a conspiracy between the nervous cardinal and the obliging DA But Cardozo links forensic evidence -- wax burns, incense traces, drugs, gruesome butchery, and wafers on their tongues -- and discovers that a headshot of each murdered urchin appears in Father Joe's photo talent files. The Communion Killer (as he comes to be known for the last rites he administers) must be a priest, luring the kids into his trap through a complicated network comprised of a ruthless runaway, a transvestite hooker, a wealthy therapist, and a shady lawyer, among others. Cardozo forces the investigation, digging deep into the ugly and Byzantine pasts of the priests, the junkies, and himself, all the while stepping on the toes of strait-laced bureaucrats, St. Andrews's rich neighbors, and the retiring police captain. The suspenseful plot hurtles to its startling and satisfying conclusion, delivering all the lurid titillation that a Stewart novel promises: chase scenes, rapes, be-pearled aristocratic ladies contrasted with pregnant HIV-positive hookers, red herrings, secretive clergy, a clever cop, and lots of blood. Same thrills, different book.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Delacorte