Salvation in Death
by J.D. Robb
Review by Paul Haggerty
Putnam Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780399155222
Date: 04 November 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Salvation in Death is the 27th novel in the Eve Dallas mystery series and Dallas has the case of a murdered priest on her hands. Poisoned in the middle of the funeral Mass for a highly regarded local business man, Father Miguel Flores' sudden demise takes everyone at St. Christobal's in East Harlem by surprise. No longer surprised by deaths of any kind, Dallas is dispatched to find the truth. But despite the good natures and caring intentions of all the people at St. Christobal's, human nature can never be entirely overcome. Everyone has secrets, and everybody lies. Most are small things, just to save someone from embarrassment. Others result in cold blooded murder. The problem is telling them apart before someone else turns up dead.
The investigation into Father Flores' death hits a rough patch right from the beginning. Father Flores was well liked, so who would want him dead? How could the murderer have managed to pull it off right in the middle of Mass? Who could have managed the deed? Well, the how turns out to have been simple. Just poison the consecrated wine. And the answer to the third questions turns out to be nearly as simple, but far less illuminating: Just about anybody. The priests and support staff that run the church are, at heart, a pretty trusting bunch. Security is minimal, and the locks could be picked by a half-blind kitten with only one claw. Which means that Dallas is going to need to figure out the why. From there, the who will hopefully follow.
Why would someone want to kill a mild mannered priest? A search of Father Flores' room, and the autopsy on the body, begin to reveal inconsistencies which indicate the question might not be the correct one to ask. Why would a mild mannered priest have scars from old knife wounds, the remains of old tattoos, and evidence of plastic surgery? Nothing in Father Flores' official past would account for these. And further interviews with locals leads Dallas to the inescapable conclusion that Father Flores' wasn't that man he was pretending to be. Rather than clearing anything up, instead the mystery deepens. Who was he, why had he become Father Flores, who knew who of his charade, who wanted to kill the man he used to be and, just for good measure, what happened to the real Father Flores?
Dallas has another problem to deal with in this one. She's never been particularly comfortable around religion. And with the events of her childhood, it's not terribly surprising that she has doubts and a bit of contempt towards the whole concept. But the victim's friends are all good people, just trying to help out those in need. And Dallas' job is in some ways related. Dallas' purpose in life is to stand for the dead … to enforce one personal commandment of her own: Thou shalt not get away with it. Regardless of her personal feelings, and regardless of the personal nature of the victim, Dallas won't rest until she figures out the truth, and makes sure all those who are guilty pay the price.
But the truth involves bad things long since buried and forgotten, good guys who made mistakes, bad guys who turned their lives around (and don't want the past dug up), and several layers of dirty deeds, cover-ups, and the hindrance of decades of bureaucracy.