A man of God debates his next course of action when a penitent’s confession reveals startling information regarding a woman’s unsolved murder in this quiet mystery.
Anthony “Tony” Calabrese’s plan to propose to Angela Santino in 1987 has a cruel denouement when she dies in a liquor store robbery. A shattered Tony joins the priesthood, also having lost his father to cancer and his prospective baseball career to an injury. By 2000, he’s a respected figure in his New York community while staying true to his vows, even if he’s a social drinker and a rather prolific gambler. But it’s on a cruise with his family that Tony finds himself fighting temptation. While mom Teresa gets cozy with widower Paul Bathgate, Tony can’t deny his attraction to Paul’s daughter, Donna Banks. His priestly pledges are once against tested when he volunteers to serve as a New York Police Department chaplain, and Patrolman Andy Miller hints at pertinent information regarding a recent liquor store robbery. Andy elaborates in a later confession that he may have details about a similar crime, the very one that killed Angela years ago. Tony wants his detective brother-in-law, Johnny Sullivan, and Donna’s forensic specialist brother, Jeremy, to reexamine the cold case. The priest struggles with a way to tell the cops about a possibly incriminating gun without breaking the Seal of Confession by which he’s bound. There’s so much nuance in the novel that the mystery, which opens the story, becomes a subplot. Saulino (Framily, 2014) aptly develops Father Tony’s family, everyone getting together often to chew over the ongoing World Series or favorite episodes of Seinfeld. The forbidden romance between Tony and Donna is also forever on the priest’s mind, all the more challenging once physical allure evolves into admissions of love. Tony learning of a probable suspect in Angela’s murder and his resultant dilemma, though certainly intriguing, never fully overtake the plot from the protagonist’s other troubles. Saulino, meanwhile, packs his narrative with gleefully torrid drama: there’s a reason Paul fails to mention he has a son, while a husband implies something less than innocent between his parishioner wife and Tony.
A solid crime story sharing the spotlight with a priest’s family and nagging doubts.