When last seen, Sean Chercover was the author of a tremendous, award-winning, two-book private eye series set in Chicago (Big City, Bad Blood and Trigger City). His latest is a thriller, with the Catholic church, bogus evangelical preachers, possible miracles, and assassins.
Danny Byrne is a priest who works on investigating miracles on behalf of the Vatican. He is also the nephew of hellfire-and-damnation preacher, Tim Trinity. When Danny was old enough to realize Trinity was a fraud, he ran away and joined the Catholic church. He left behind not just his life in New Orleans, but the love of his life, Julia Rothman, currently a reporter.
After working a nettlesome case in which a miracle turns out to be fradulent, Danny's perspicacity is "rewarded" by the equivalent of a paper-pushing job in the darkest and most boring place that the church can find. Sometimes, certain people maintain, a miracle should be certified for the general good of the cause.
Danny is rescued by his mentor to work one particular case, which might put Danny back in everyone's good graces. This time there's no mistaking his instruction: find out how the fraud is being committed. The perpetrator: Danny's uncle Tim.
After Hurricane Katrina, Tim moved to Atlanta, and the tenor of his sermons changed. He began speaking in tongues in a way that was different than he had before. Upon analysis (by people with nothing better to do?), it is discovered that if you run the tongues speeches backwards and speed it up by a third, it sounds like Tim Trinity speaking in a normal voice, a trick that, linguistically speaking, is impossible, according to this book. Furthermore, what he is saying turns out to be predictions -- with a smattering of helpful cooking advice -- on weather, horse races, disasters. Is Tim God, the Messiah, Satan, a human fissure in space? Danny is determined to find out how Tim is ginning his believers.
Danny is back in the South, back in touch with the lovely and conveniently single Julia, and face-to-face with the man he once adored and now despises, the Reverend Tim Trinity. The bottom line is something's got to give, and Chercover's book is about what turns and turns in the widening gyre.
Chercover is a good storyteller, and I was entertained by this book, but I REALLY liked the Ray Dudgeon books. (I gave "Trigger City" a star.) Ray and Daniel are a lot alike. They are honorable and independent thinkers, always the first steps on the road to castigation by the powers-that-be, but Ray's darkness makes him the more compelling character.