Father Roger Dowling solves the murder of another unwed father.
Years ago, Henry and Vivian Dolan’s daughter Sheila and her husband George Lynch, despondent because they couldn’t have children of their own, adopted a little girl. Sheila met the baby’s mother Madeline, a Northwestern coed whose boyfriend had run out on her, before Martha was born and thanked her for her gift; Madeline married Mark Lorenzo, her philosophy professor, and raised a family of her own; and Martha grew into a fine young woman, a paralegal courted by the son of one of her firm’s blueblood partners. Now, just as Martha is seeking to know her birth mother so that her in-laws won’t accept her simply as a Dolan or a Lynch, her birth father, novelist Nathaniel Fleck, pops up in Madeline’s life full of remorse and determination to find his child. Fearing the harm her untold secret could do to her marriage, Madeline panics, but an obliging hit-and-run driver erases her problem before Fleck can do serious damage. Or does he? Following an unscrupulous and none-too-bright lawyer who’s improbably hired by two different players to unearth the truth, McInerny spins a tale of decent people whose lives are roiled by secrets they never knew or thought were long buried.
So absorbing are the threatened families that it’s a shame when the whodunit plot finally kicks in and Father Dowling (Prodigal Father, 2002, etc.) has to extract a confession.