Ralph McInerny The Prudence of Flesh Reviews

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“The Prudence of Flesh ”


written by Harriet Klausner on 04/06/2006

The Prudence of Flesh
Ralph McInerny
St. Martin's, Aug 2006, $24.95
ISBN: 0312351445

NPR host of End Notes Gregory Barrett visits his former seminary classmate Father Dowling for the first time in years seeking his help. Apparently, a woman he swears he never met Madeline Murphy has just been led to remember that he sexually abused her when he still was a priest and claims he is the father of her child. Dowling thinks that is quite a memory gap as Gregory left the priesthood twenty-five years ago. Madeline is suing Gregory and the archdiocese.

Dowling has doubts that Barrett sired Murphy's child, but agrees to look into the matter as he knows that most people today prefer to believe the priest is guilty of being a sexual predator. Also looking into the accusations is wannabe author Ned Bunting, who is working on a tell-all exposure book about the church sexual scandals. Not long after meeting with Barrett, Father Dowling learns that Bunting was murdered and fears his friend might be the culprit; but if not Barrett, most likely another priest fearing exposure.

Although the topic is interesting and clearly current, twisting the story line from the relevancy to a murder mystery adds suspense but leaves the key players (besides Dowling), Barrett, Murphy, and Bunting, underdeveloped. Thus Father Dowling works his magic, but concentrates more so on the homicide than on whether a priest acted as a sexual predator. Well written as always, THE PRUDENCE OF FLESH is one of those could have been great, but instead is a fine whodunit for series fans only.

Harriet Klausner

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