Picks and Pans Review: The Noonday Devil

updated 03/04/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/04/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Ralph Mclnerny

The best thing about this novel is the beginning—a killer makes his way from a Rome rooftop into a conference in order to shoot New York's conservative archbishop, an ambassador and assorted people who just happen to get in his way. This scene is so fast-paced and exciting that the rest of the book seems almost anticlimactic. The book introduces too large a cast of characters, including a virginal ex-nun, a New York Times religion editor who was once a monk, a liberal churchman from California and others from conservative foundations and religious orders. When the dead archbishop's secretary transcribes a secret tape recording left among his possessions, it reveals that the Pope knows that "at least one bishop in the United States is an agent of the KGB!" The author of this novel, a lay professor of medieval studies at Notre Dame, has published 17 other books, including Connolly's Life, The Priest and the Father Dowling mystery series. His hero detective, an agnostic named Philip Knight, has a brother named Roger, who is pathological and an overweight genius. It is Roger who does all the profound thinking and who ultimately solves the murder, unravels the Red plot against the American Catholic Church, and brings the killer to justice. The novel is solid entertainment for detective story fans—especially those who also happen to be paranoid, reactionary Catholics. (Atheneum, $15.95)

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