Burgraff’s debut thriller follows a Chicago minister as he investigates a violent conspiracy.
A man named Deacon Adelius wakes up in a hospital bed with a bullet in his shoulder and a police detective in the hallway. It turns out that a woman who’d sought asylum in Deacon’s church the night before has been murdered. Deacon is, in fact, a deacon—a lay Catholic minister—who’s unsure whether he wants to fully commit his life to serving God. The dead woman left her pocket-sized Bible in Deacon’s chambers, and it contains a coded message that may explain why she was killed. This all might have been a bit too much for an average deacon to handle, but not Deacon—he’s an Iraq War veteran and a former military police officer. More significantly, he’s an initiate of the Gabrians—a secret brotherhood that’s dedicated to purging the Roman Catholic Church of predatory priests. It’s soon revealed that the details of his life and the facts of the murder case are more intertwined than they initially appear; after all, in Chicago, the church, the law and the streets have long been known to overlap, and Deacon doesn’t shy away from drawing blood with his trusty aluminum baseball bat. He launches his own investigation into the murder because he knows he can’t trust the cops, but when his blood gets going, can he even trust himself? Burgraff writes in crisp, moody prose that makes this noir a satisfying escape (“My headlights illuminated streets that looked lonelier and dirtier than ever”). Although he doesn’t reinvent the genre, he does offer a uniquely Catholic revenge fantasy that should appeal to readers’ darker angels. Deacon’s investigation forces him to confront notions of forgiveness, punishment, justice and sin, and the book seems to say that even the most devout must rely on their own senses of righteousness. Some characters could have been explored more deeply, and some scenes might have benefited from greater attention to detail. Overall, however, Burgraff’s chilly depiction of Chicago and his sometimes-disturbing protagonist make this a memorable read with potential for future installments.
A dark, theologically minded addition to the noir genre.