Ultrareactionary subversion of papal politics complicates a priestly detective's investigation of the hottest religious TV star since Fulton J. Sheen. First-novelist Cooney, whose biography of Cardinal Spellman (The American Pope, 1984) was unflatteringly thorough, presumably knows his way around a cathedral. Father Kevin Kelly's marching orders have come from pronuncio and archbishop Tommaso ``Dagger Tom'' Clarizio, the supersmooth Vatican grandee with the direct line to the Pope. His Eminence and His Holiness have ordered Kelly, a one-time CIA assassin now something of a holy hired gun, to check out the soft rumors of scandal that murmur around TV talk-show host and papal possible Monsignor Patrick Hogan before he is raised to bishop. Kelly is obedient but not keen on the task; he had his fill of dirty duty in Vietnam. And it looks as if there is indeed dirt to dish. Hogan, who as Kelly's seminary classmate led a gang of three future ecclesiastical hotshots called ``the Trinity,'' appears to have dallied with a pretty production assistant and to have been much too sympathetic toward his most Bolshevik classmate. Kelly, however, takes nothing at face value and quickly uncovers much more disturbing evidence of mischief and sabotage coming from the church's newest and most conservative religious order. Kelly, a widower, teams up with an exceptionally attractive TV newslady to get to the nasty bottom of it all and, in the process, clears up a mystery that has haunted the Trinity since their school days. Andrew Greeley meets Ian Fleming. Sex, sin, sleuths, and salvation.