Blackie Ryan is back, wearing, when pushed, the purple
accoutrements of Archbishop-hood as is his right as Adjutant
Archbishop of Chicago. The short, portly Irish priest has come a
long way from the small neighborhood parishes of younger years, and
still prefers black jeans and a t-shirt, a Chicago Cubs jacket and
a Bulls baseball cap. His penchant for keen observation during
crime investigations, which he sadly has been witness to in the
line of his priestly duties, has led to a widely admired reputation
for solving murders.
When a conference on American Philosophy is scheduled in
Seville, Cardinal Sean Cronin, Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago,
dispatches our favorite frocked detective to the sunny shores of
Andalusia to attend in his stead due to failing health. He urges
Blackie to stay with his old friend, Cardinal Diego Sanchez y
Romanos, Archbishop of Seville.
Shortly after his arrival, he and his niece and her fiancé,
also in Seville as missionaries, are invited to a dinner where they
are introduced to the bewitching Doña Teresa Maria Romero y
Avila, Duchess of Seville, and her beautiful daughter, Maria Luisa.
Doña Teresa is widely considered to be the crown jewel of
Spain because of her ties to the former royal family. They are,
however, virtual prisoners in their ancestral villa. Her aunt and
self-appointed duena, Doña Inez, and her husband, a
retired General from Franco’s regime, have tied up her
considerable fortune under an antiquated Spanish law that dictates
she cannot have access to her inheritance until three years after
her husband’s death.
Blackie begins to suspect that there is more to his visit to
Seville than a stuffy conference and discovers that the Archbishop
of Seville has told his friend, Archbishop Cronin in Chicago, that
he fears for the ladies’ lives. He feels certain the Aunt and
Uncle mean to harm, even murder, the Duchess so that they can
inherit the estate.
Meanwhile, Blackie learns that his sister, who is mother to his
nephew, Joseph, has an ulterior motive for seeing to it that her
son and fiancé Peggy are in Seville at the same time Blackie
is there. They have been engaged far too long, in her eyes, and she
wants him to intervene to encourage the couple to set a wedding
The widow Doña Teresa also has a lover, which in Spain is
neither unusual nor frowned upon, except by the same arcane law
that has tied up her estate --- she cannot marry until the
proscribed time has passed.
It all falls on the little Padracito Negro (which translates
into “that cute little priest called Blackie) to uncloak the
potential murderers, unclog the Spanish courts, hasten the romances
of Peggy and Joe, save the life of La Doña Teresa and help her
get married to the dashing Don Leandro Santiago y Diaz. Only
Blackie could bring about such miracles.
A rather surprising note casts light on the prolific author,
Father Andrew Greeley, whose many, many mystery books have thrilled
readers for decades. Has he become prescient?
Check this out. In Chapter I, paragraph 3, in which he describes
proper Spanish forms of address, he discusses how to address people
with titles, such as kings, princes of the Church and heads of
state. Don Juan is the formal method of address to one of
such stature, which he explains thusly: “One would hardly
address the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago as Don Sean or even Don
Juan Patricio. It would be thought a pretentious affectation, much
as if one referred to the putative president of our own republic as
Say what? As a reviewer, I was reading
the hardcover edition of the book weeks before the general
election, and Blackie was assuming that the president would be
Barack Obama? This so grabbed my attention that I rushed to my
Random House Unabridged Dictionary to look up
“putative” to make sure I was reading this right. Okay.
Putative does mean “reputed” or “supposed”
or “commonly regarded.” Wow!
Better check with Blackie on the Cubs and the Bulls next
Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 22, 2010