Second in a prison-crime series of realistic drama and surprising character depth.
When televangelist Bobby Earl Caldwell and his wife Bunny show up at Potter Correctional Institution to proselytize to the inmates, police investigator turned prison chaplain John Jordan (Power in the Blood, reviewed in the August 1, 1997, issue of Kirkus Reviews) is troubled to see their seven-year-old daughter Nicole Caldwell accompanying them to the prison. Parental love notwithstanding, the black five-year-old, adopted by the white couple, seems to be a rather valuable publicity element of the Caldwell ministry, but no matter: In short order, Nicole is found murdered in John's own locked office, and John's old investigation instincts re-emerge, eliciting the ire of the prison warden and his goon nephew DeAndrÃ©. Nonetheless, the former cop forges ahead. DeAndrÃ© is serving as the Caldwells' bodyguard during their stay at Potter, making him the first in a large cast of possible perps--including corrupt cops at the prison, convicted pedophiles and other inmates with liberal access to many parts of the facility, including John's quarters. Racial, religious and sexual tensions abound, and John, while chasing leads and searching for clues, also continues (picking up where he left off in Power in the Blood) to grapple with his own demons: his love for a married woman; his undying attraction to his estranged wife; and his precarious dance with his hard-won sobriety. The spiritual dimension of John's inner life adds a depth that's often absent in the mystery genre.
A realistically portrayed prison setting and a cast of characters depicted with complexity and nuance (Lister was himself a prison chaplain for seven years) together form a quietly effective character-study/whodunit.