DEATH WEARS A RED HAT by William X. Kienzle


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Another grisly series of religion-tinged Detroit murders to be solved by Father Robert Koesler (The Rosary Murders, 1979)--while the Detroit cops and Detroit news-folk also sleuth at length. The victims: a top racketeer, a top pimp, an abortion-mill doctor, a con-man, etc.--all evil types (Kienzle shows them in action) whose decapitated heads are discovered in sacred spots around Detroit's Catholic churches (in the Cardinal's ornamental hat, on statues of saints). There are virtually no followable clues (except phony ones implicating priests) till figures of disreputable St. Expeditus are found at the homes of two victims, implying. . . voodoo. That's a bit hard to take (though cobra venom is also involved), as are the pseudo-sane motive for the killings (a ""statement on the nature of evil"") and Kienzle's unconvincing portrayal of the various deaths (all the dying wrongdoers hallucinate and die of fright in exactly the same way, with their victims materializing before their eyes). Furthermore, the multitude of sleuths and the repetitiousness of the murders combine to produce a meandering focus. Still, much of the dialogue is snappy, there are assorted running gags (black-comic, silly, erudite), and those with a taste for both ecclesiastical hijinks and low-down gore will find this an energetic, ambling mÉlange.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1980
Publisher: Andrews & McMeel