Born into an alcoholic family, long broken with his mother over her drinking and with his sheriff father over his decision to leave law enforcement for the clergy, hounded out of his parish and his marriage by accusations of sexual misconduct--Rev. John Jordan (``JJ'') feels he can't have very far to fall from the trailer he calls home and the prison he calls work. But his ministry at the Potter Correctional Institution goes into crisis when he sees inmate Ike Johnson stabbed to death by a panicky correctional officer who goes on to spray Johnson's AIDS-ridden blood all over JJ. While he's waiting to find out if he's infected, JJ is bullied into joining Inspector General Tom Daniels, who just happens to be his ex-wife's choleric father, in finding out who put Johnson's drugged body out with the trash. What else can go wrong? Well, bank president Russ Maddox, the uncle of JJ's new romantic interest, can be murdered under circumstances that link him directly to Ike Johnson; a rogue prison official can put a price on JJ's head; and a fresh accusation of rape can return him to the nightmarish past he's never lived down. Enough tribulation for you, maybe, but not for JJ, who turns cheek after cheek rather than taking revenge on his tormenters or even turning evidence against them over to the authorities. The result is a first novel that takes a uniquely uncompromising view of grace, though readers less saintly than the hero will burn with impatience at his sempiternal suffering.