In his book, The Search for Saint Valeria, author William L. Biersach brings to the reader a creative mystery hunt for lost-and-found ancient relics where Fr. Baptist and his sidekick gardener, Mr. Feeney, find themselves searching for the dead among the living.
The book cover shows a young woman sitting near an open window praying silently while there is a silhouette approaching her room outside her house. These elements are part of the scheme of the Knights Tumblar, along with other unexpected collaborators and perpetrators, to return a valuable relic to the rightful owner.
The story begins with the first encounter of Fr. Baptist, Mr. Feeney and Burglary officer, Sybil Wexler, regarding recent robberies of antique shops that are selling discarded Catholic accouterments to collectors, such as tabernacles, altar bells, and vestments, among other items of interest. Known for his keen ability to solve unusual cases, Ms. Wexler comes to Fr. Baptist looking for answers and to have a better understanding of the value of the relics, their authenticity, and possible motive for the robberies. These robberies, however, seem to coincide with Cardinal Fulbright's order to transfer the relic of Saint Valeria from the cathedral's high altar to an unidentified niche within the lower alcove in the mausoleum at New Golgotha Cemetery.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Fulbright Murkenstein's cup and other reliquaries are stolen from his private collection located in his office. He calls Fr. Baptist to help him locate and return this precious chalice to him, as the Cardinal does not trust Ms. Wexler to do this job.
During the remaining of the story, Fr. Baptist and Mr. Feeney's parallel investigation with Ms. Wexler and her insolent partner causes some friction among them and creates suspicious, as the number of robberies in various antiques shops' in the area continue to escalate with no clue of the identities of the perpetrators, and the motives remain a mystery to them all. Nevertheless, Fr. Baptist's web of connections in all levels of society from his former cop days give him a cutting edge advantage over the unexperienced Ms. Wexler. Fr. Baptist contacts Ernie, who gets him in touch with "Some Guy" in his efforts to find the ultimate buyer. This will take Fr. Baptist and Mr. Feeney to the underground world, where only the bold and the brave dare to go alone to far away dark places, hoping to find the missing link to all the unpredictable circumstances surrounding this case.
At the end of the book, Fr. Baptist is fathom at the role of the Knight Tumblar, Arthur's narcoleptic sister, Beth, and other respectable figures in the Church, who were collaborating to find the relic of their beloved Saint Valeria and return it to its rightful place of rest.
One of the elements that make Mr. Biersach's stories so entertaining, intriguing, and fascinating is his ability to weave together elements from his previous books into the current story. Everything is a continuation in some form or another of a previous case solved by Fr. Baptist and Mr. Feeney. On this particular story the reader will be delighted by the new and unexpected state of affairs between Millie, the cook, and Monsignor Havermeyer.
I highly recommend this book to readers looking for an avid detective relic hunt and who think they are capable to solve the case as the clues are presented through Fr. Baptist's insights and analytical mind, Mr. Feeney gardener's tips, and Ms. Wexler's inept methods of investigation.
The clever and astonishing end would leave the reader wondering, 'is this possible'?
Reviewed by the author of The Window To My Soul : My Walk With Jesus