SACRED HEART by Marcel Montecino


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 It's been seven years since Montecino's last novel, Big Time, but his subject is the same: the dramatic redemption of a seemingly incorrigible criminal. Even though he has a feeling something funny is cooking in the meeting between his father, Bulldog Coyne, and rival Prohibition-era mobster Anthony Matranga, Tommy Coyne could never have foreseen the way that night ends: with him cowering for sanctuary in Hell's Kitchen's Church of the Sacred Heart, nobody but a disillusioned parish priest standing between him and the law. But Tommy Gun's escape in priestly garb is the least of the miracles that follow. Heading south to take refuge with his nice- guy brother Frank in Guadalajara, Tommy gets off a train to avoid a staring fellow-passenger and walks right into the war between the Catholic Church and the Mexican nation, which has nationalized Church property, outlawed Mass, and started executing noncompliant priests. Caught up in the Federales' latest sweep, Tommy is inches from death when a second miracle saves him and a Yaqui companion, Aureliano Quintana, allowing them to turn the tables on their executioners and ride off in triumph with an entourage already whispering awestruck stories about Padre Pistolero. Still masquerading as a priest, Tommy expects to escape into Going My Way, but militant Father Frank, in a frenzied attempt to compensate for years of pacifism, plans a scenario instead out of The Wild Bunch: His cristeros will dynamite a train bringing 50,000 pesos to tyrannical General Terrazas and use the money to set off widespread guerilla warfare. Despite the lures of the flesh in the form of Sister Lourdes Hidalgo, Tommy finds himself recoiling from his brother's bloodlust. Montecino works overtime to show the brothers switching places, but for all his flair for action scenes (don't get too attached to any of the supporting characters), he's no Flannery O'Connor, and Father Frank's violent corruption is a lot more convincing than Tommy's miraculous redemption. (Film rights to Warner Brothers)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-671-01539-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997