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More sunny, sentimental, often quite funny clerical capers--in Boyd's third sketchbook about the parish of St. Jude in 1951 West London. Again Father Neil is the bemused curate to great-hearted, corner-cutting Father (""little Charlie"") Duddleswell. And also along are housekeeper Miss Pring (""who,"" says Duddleswell, ""can lift me off the ground just with a blast of her mouth""); Billy Buzzle, bookie and convenient ""convert"" at ecumenical meetings; Dr. Daley, chum and ever-ready co-conspirator; and the local Mother Superior (also known as the Big Penguin). The twelve episodes lead off with the arrival of a thunderous, bibulous, octogenarian priest, Father Abe, during Holy Week--a week which includes a visit from Bishop ""Sponger"" O'Reilly, hilarious rounds with Father Abe, Father Duddleswell's lumbago, not to mention the longest rosary on record. And among the other giddy doings at St. Jude: a rivalry between undertakers and a nick-of-time switch of coffins; Fr. Duddleswell's ill-fated enterprise to promote miraculous holy water for fertility, with unfortunate results on an Episcopal interior; plus a pilgrimage spent in a mouse-infested inn and under a billiard table, all because the Big Penguin is determined to enshrine a relic--the tibia of the order's Mother Foundress. But, as always, there are also a few solemn matters in all the drollery: the happy marriage of a Jewish orphan (protÉgÉ of a tragedy-scarred rabbi) and a young Catholic girl (rescued from a fire by Fr. Duddleswell); the suicide of a homosexual headmaster whose reputation is protected by Fr. Duddleswell; and the death and double burial of Fr. Abe and the last baby he'd baptized. With lots of Freely feathered flights of Irish oratory and wrecking-ball insults, a nice serving of clergy comedy in the Barry Fitzgerald spirit.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow