Another chapter, and a mighty complex one, in the chronicles of Father Dowling, the quietly perceptive pastor of St. Hilary's in Fox River, Illinois (A Cardinal Sin, 1994, etc.). Longtime parishioner Mitchell Striker, a retired financial advisor, is to give a lecture on investing at the church's social center. His body, however, is found in his car in the parking lot; he's been killed, it turns out, by an injection of Demerol. The police arrest Jerome Winegar, who, 20 years before, was a star pupil at St. Peter's School for Orphans. Striker was a board member there, and instrumental in getting Winegar expelled when Striker's daughter Nancy became pregnant as a result of her love affair with the young man. Now, after a stint in the army and aimless jobs in other places, a suave Winegar is back in Fox River--to get his revenge on Striker, according to the prosecution. Moving in with much younger reporter Lucy Sommers, even as he escorted a wealthy widow around town, hasn't much enhanced the picture of Winegar's character. Meanwhile, Nancy Striker, married to dentist Jim Walsh and the mother of two sons, has a problem brought on by her father's death- -what to tell her adopted sister Kate, now an heiress and determined to find her birth parents? It takes another killing to get Winegar off the hook and to precipitate the Grand Guignol finish, with loose ends flapping all the way. A should-be compelling story dissipated in self-indulgent philosophizing, sloppy plotlines, and an over-the-top climax. Long- term fans won't complain. Others may wish for the might have been.