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by David J. Walker
St Martin's Minotaur, April 2005
336 pages
ISBN: 0312334540

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A killer is on the loose in Chicago and she's targeting priests who have had their names published in the newspaper when their past crimes finally comes to light. Kirsten, who owns the Wild Onion Detective Agency, is personally and emotionally involved. One of the priests on that list is her uncle Michael Dolen, a man who showed her help and kindness when she needed him most and who kept his past molestation of a young girl a secret from her.

Though her uncle and his fellow priests, who all live together, are very worried about being stalked by a killer, he's uncomfortable with his niece taking on the job of keeping them safe. He's well aware that Kirsten can't come to terms with what he did in his alcoholic past, and Father Michael is only too aware that her husband, Dugan, a lawyer, also can't forgive any of the priests for their actions.

But as more men from the list are lured away and killed in extremely gruesome ways, Kirsten insists that she protect the group, especially when she uncovers that the priests are being killed in a specific order. The initials of the dead priests are spelling her name out!

Unfortunately law enforcement doesn't see her connection to the crime and the church isn't at all happy to have more publicity heaped on an already shameful episode. She's warned off the case. That's when Kirsten realizes that she is now at the center of the killer's thoughts and she's going to have to find out who the murderer is on her own. As she tries to stop the killer striking again, Kirsten comes to see that she and her husband might be in more danger than they can imagine.

ALL THE DEAD FATHERS starts off well enough, using an emotionally-charged issue like Catholic priests molesting their parishioners. Not all the priests are written as evil incarnate; they are shown to be highly flawed and very human men. But the moment it is revealed who the killer's real target is, solely relating the killings to a case that had nothing whatsoever to do with the flawed men of God, I felt the molesting priest aspect of the story had turned into a cheap come-on to the readers. What started out as an open look at the problems of the church turned into yet another easy exploitation of a difficult issue.

The story is competent enough and written in a clear way. It's a fast read. There's nothing exceptional in the characterizations and not much to endear the readers to the lead couple. There is no emotional connection between the characters and even the married couple's relationship has no spark. The killer is a bit over the top in her madness and in the ease in which she manages to get her hands on her targets, but as she is the only slightly dramatic creature in the book, it is to be expected.

ALL THE DEAD FATHERS by David J Walker is fine reading for a rainy weekend. There's not much to make it outstanding though, and so there's no real reason to seek it out.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, May 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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