The horribly mutilated corpse of a young woman is discovered stuffed into the trunk of a car at Kennedy Airport. And it gets worse: Her body is stuffed in turn with condoms full of heroin she’s swallowed in order to smuggle them into the country. Garbed as a nun, she’s originally assumed to be in disguise. It’s when Mayor Howie Silver gets word that the young woman actually was a nun that the call goes out for NYPD Inspector Paul Devlin and his special investigations (read: politically explosive) super team to find the killer fast and with minimum inconvenience to the Archdiocese of New York, known to savvy senior police officials as “the Powerhouse.” Compounding the problem exponentially, Sister Manuela had been a postulant in the Holy Order of Opus Christi, a controversial Church sect equally famous for near-fanatical religious observance and ecclesiastical influence. Almost at once, Devlin finds himself at loggerheads with a bevy of clerical heavy-hitters who stonewall him at every turn. In the meantime, someone starts killing the city’s homosexual priests in alphabetical order. Are these murders somehow part of the same case? Pontifical pressure mounts on Mayor Silver, and the ace detective comes within an inch of being replaced. He’s saved only when the embattled mayor finally decides to back the Devlin he knows, paving the way for ratiocination to triumph over zealotry.
Devlin, back from Cuba (Red Angel, 2000), seems a shade jet-lagged at the start, but gets his head in the game in time to salvage an above-average procedural.