A Brief Review of
Chant of Death: A Father Malachi Mystery.
Reviewed by Douglas Connelly.
The setting for this intriguing little mystery is a fictional Benedictine Abbey in southern Louisiana. The monks, under the direction of a talented (and egotistical) choirmaster, have produced a best-selling CD of religious chant. Father Malachi, the spiritual-minded abbot, is doing his best to keep the priorities of the Abbey and its inhabitants focused on their true mission, while notoriety and media coverage and financial profits try to pull the monks in other directions. It’s not long until events turn murderous and Father Malachi’s abilities are put to their supreme test.
The story is well-told and has its moments of captivating intensity, but I finished the book with three complaints. First, the authors attempt to weave into the story a discussion of almost every issue facing the contemporary Roman Catholic Church. Pedophilia, celibate clergy, homosexuality, using church money to pay claims against abusive priests, bishops who cover up such crimes, and the transformation of worship in a post-modern culture – all these issues get some level of exposure in a 150-page mystery novel! Some of the issues are directly relevant to the story, but often the authors become a little heavy-handed in directing the story or the dialogue to get to the issues. I felt a little “preached to” at times.