An abusive man is found dead in his study one night. Three sophisticated locks are firmly in place and the single key for those locked doors is in the pocket of the deceased. All windows are permanently sealed. Who killed Wolfe Quinlan and how did they accomplish the murder without being caught in the locked room?
So begins Andrew Greeley's first "Blackie novel." Monsignor John Blackwood Ryan, who prefers to be called "Blackie", is Pastor of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. Blackie has a talent for solving complicated crimes - as a sideline from his ministry - and often at the request of his boss Sean Cardinal Cronin, Archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
This mystery is a tough one - a man killed in a locked room and many people with motives. There is an abused wife and children and maltreated employees. In addition, the victim was involved in a radical sect that sought to claim all his worldly goods.
Happy are the Meek is a bit too violent for me. The story also lacks focus. It details too much of the activities and feelings of too many characters. Greeley expects us to understand a man with an insane wife and an abused family. In addition we need to appreciate adultery, teenaged rebellion, and even a wayward priest who becomes a satin worshiper with a cult. The author switches voice often, using first person narration to picture varied characters whose comments range from harsh criticism of another to extreme self-deception. Instead of each "witness" telling his/her own story, it might read more smoothly for Blackie to interview them.
Despite these flaws, I recommend this novel. It acquaints us with a strong character, Blackie, a priest who focuses on calming and forgiving people. He sees a God who loves the humans he created, one who expects humans to be human. It's a good start for the first novel in a series.