UNHOLY COMMUNION by Richard Hughes


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The skull-crushed body of a young employee is found on the ski lift at Jordan's Crossing--a Vermont resort-cum-religious-retreat. And the prime suspect is Joe Connors, a classics professor from a Catholic college who's been skiing at the resort ever since plunged into a nervous breakdown by the death of his wife. Has Joe become so deranged that he unconsciously committed this murder, an apparent religio-fanatic act? So wonders the cop on the case, Capt. Sam MeChesney. The bulk of this small, talky book, then, consists of Joe's uncompelling life story, through McChesney's interrogations or from Joe's own viewpoint: studying for the priesthood, meeting lovely Greta in Innsbruck, renouncing the Jesuits to marry her, then seeing her die and suffering massive guilt. Meanwhile, another body surfaces (even more obviously a religious-murder victim), while Joe rediscovers sex with Jewish journalist Karen. And eventually the real culprit is predictably unmasked--along with his laboriously explained but entirely unconvincing psycho-sexual-religious motivation. English professor Hughes, author of a fine Donne study (Progress of the Soul), writes a few strong passages on skiing here, and the McChesney/Joe dialogue offers some moments of Catholic/literary interest. As character study, however, the novel is bland and obvious; and as murder-mystery, it's fatally ill-paced and virtually suspense-less.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday