Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny

Mysterious Reviews: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Crime Novel Reviews, edited by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books


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A University of Notre Dame Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-58265-X (031258265X)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-58265-4 (9780312582654)
Publication Date: April 2010
List Price: $24.99

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Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny
Buy Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny

Review: The circumstances surrounding the disappearance 20 years earlier of a Notre Dame student attract the attention of Professor Roger Knight and his brother Philip, a retired private investigator, in Sham Rock, the 13th mystery in this series by the late Ralph McInerny.

At the height of the financial bubble prior to 2009, investment banker David Williams pledged millions to fund the Williams Center for Ethics on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Now, a year later and nearly broke, he returns to the university from which he graduated to inform the officials that his donation would be delayed. Separately, a former classmate of David's and once a close friend, Patrick Pelligrino, who is now a monk at a Trappist monastery in Kentucky, donates a lifetime of papers to the university archives. Included among these papers is a cryptic note that suggests David may have been involved in the disappearance of another classmate, Timothy Quinn, the third of the so-called "trinity" of friends, who left the campus while a student and was never seen again. Roger and Philip Knight are intrigued by the puzzle presented and set out to determine if there is any truth to the allegation that David Williams may have gotten away with murder so many years ago.

Sham Rock is not a typical mystery. About three-quarters of the book, the first 200 pages, is basically a setup to a murder that finally takes place and is resolved in the final 70 pages. To be sure, there is a lot of credible misdirection in the plot, which would seem to involve whether Timothy Quinn was killed or not and whether David Williams was involved or not. But it's clear from the various subplots that something else is going on. And there is some appeal, from a mystery reader's perspective, to not knowing exactly where the story is going. Yet the resolution is not all that satisfying. One would think that given the length of time spent on setting up the murder, the outcome would have more punch. Fans of the series will no doubt enjoy what is likely to be its final entry, but newcomers expecting more of a traditional mystery may be disappointed in Sham Rock.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of Sham Rock for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): The University of Notre Dame relies on Roger Knight, the rotund professor of Catholic Studies, and his brother Philip, a semiretired PI, to investigate certain delicate situations that could put the school in a bad light. Students, faculty, and alumni, like David Williams, are all fair game.

Having been a successful financial adviser until recently, David has returned to campus to renege on a pledged donation to the university’s ethics program. While he’s there, one of his former classmates sends a letter confessing to the murder and a secret burial of one of their closest friends, a student who had gone missing decades before and was never found. As students, David, Patrick, and Timothy made up the “Trinity,” an irreverent nickname for three close friends and fierce rivals -- be it for on-campus prestige or the affections of a beautiful St. Mary’s student from across the road.

Ready to help the school put the whole sordid tragedy behind them, Roger and Philip set about the sad task of unearthing Timothy’s body, only to find that they have a much bigger mystery with which to contend.

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