The irrepressible Bishop Blackwood Ryan returns as his Cardinal dispatches Blackie to The University on the South Side of Chicago to investigate a baffling locked-room mystery. Someone has assassinated a Russian Orthodox monk in his office at the Divinity School-despite the fact that the door of his office was bolted shut from the inside and no killer was found within.
Who shot Brother Semyon Ivanivich Popov? There were only four professors in the building on the night of the shooting: a feminist theologian, a distinguished scripture scholar, an expert on the Talmud, and a young tenure-seeking professor whom Blackie compares to a silverback gorilla.
It turns out that the mystery of the locked room is simple compared to the international intrigue that swiftly develops around the case. Intelligence agents from diverse nations seem to be involved, as well as both the Sicilian and Russian mobs. Blackie soon finds himself the target of threats and actual bullets as he seeks to unravel the deepening mystery surrounding the murdered monk-whose murky secrets may stretch all the way to the Vatican itself!
Murder is more than academic in yet another delightful whodunit by one of America's most popular storytellers.
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A native of Chicago, Reverend Andrew M. Greeley, is a priest, distinguished sociologist and bestselling author. He is professor of social sciences at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona, as well as Research Associate at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. His current sociological research focuses on current issues facing the Catholic Church-including celibacy of priests, ordination of women, religious imagination, and sexual behavior of Catholics.
Father Greeley received the S.T.L. in 1954 from St. Mary of Lake Seminary. His graduate work was done at the University of Chicago, where he received the M.A. Degree in 1961 and the Ph.D. in 1962.
Father Greeley has written scores of books and hundreds of popular and scholarly articles on a variety of issues in sociology, education and religion. His column on political, church and social issues is carried by the carried by the Chicago Sun Times and may other newspapers. He stimulates discussion of neglected issues and often anticipates sociological trends. He is the author of more than thirty bestselling novels and an autobiography, Furthermore!: Confessions of a Parish Priest.
"One cardinal ought to be enough for Chicago, ought he not, Blackwood?"
His Eminent Lordship Sean, Cardinal Priest of the Roman Church, Cronin towered over me, like a crimson watered silk alien from another planet. Cardinals who are tall (only a few) and handsome (even fewer) and with powerful presence (yet fewer still) can create that illusion. No one of this world would walk around in cardinalatial choir robes in daylight. He might, however, be a character from a Fellini movie or someone playing Richelieu in a theater of the absurd production from North Lincoln Avenue. In any event his hooded blue eyes were wide-open, his forehead furrowed in a deep frown, and his lips pressed together in either serious thought or suppressed anger.
"Arguably," I said, glancing up from my computer, "more than enough."
I had just returned from a bootless trip to Rome. A certain dicastry of the Roman Curia had wanted to consult with me on a problem. By which they meant they wanted to tell me what they thought and could not have cared less about what I thought. They were doing me a favor by talking to me.
"Yet we seem to have another."
"How unfortunate." I sighed in West of Ireland protest.
Milord Cronin opened my liquor cabinet, removed from the back of it a precious container of Bushmills Single Malt and poured himself considerably more than a splasheen in one of my recently cleaned Waterford tumblers.
"That would solve the problem, would it not?"
I turned away from my workstation. The Cardinal deposited a large stack of output on the floor and reclined on my couch. In full robes with a drink in hand (though it was only early afternoon on a radiant October day), he did look a little like the cinematic version of Armand-Jean de Plessis, duc de Richelieu—if one were to imagine that worthy to have been Irish.
"No, that creates the problem."
Aha, the harmless, indeed almost invisible little auxiliary bishop was about to be dispatched on a mystery-solving expedition.
"There are always a few kooks wandering around this city," he said, sipping cautiously from uisce beatha as the Irish were pleased to call the Creature. "This is good stuff, Blackwood," he interrupted his train of thought. "You think they will have it in heaven?"
"Minimally it and sex."
He sighed, not, however, as loudly as I can sigh.
"My own tailor makes crimson robes for them, though he doesn’t want me to know about it. They’re not really authentic, but parading down Thirty-first Street in what they think is full regalia gives them a kick, I guess."
"As do the several troubled folk who insist on donning papal white. It is, after all, a free city. From the point of view of those who are not of the household of the faith. We’re all kooks."
On occasion I have had to persuade some such persons not to enter a ceremony at the Cathedral over which I preside at the Lord Cardinal’s pleasure. They depart quietly with sad eyes when I tell them that their presence would greatly trouble Milord Cronin, which may be a touch of an exaggeration.
"This Russian fellow, however, left a full set of choir robes in his closet. They seem to be authentic..."
"That’s right, you’ve been off in Rome, haven’t you? This Semyon Ivanivich Popov who was killed in a locked office of the Divinity School at The University the other night."
In Chicago there are many universities. However, only one is identified as The University, mostly because of frequent repetition of the italicized word by its denizens.
He handed me a sheaf of clippings from Chicago papers.
"He was Russian. They all have funny names."
"Simon, son of John, priest? Or if you wish, Simon bar Jona, Pope?"
"The cops tell me that the robes included a pallium. None of the crazies bother with that."
The pallium is a small decoration made of wool, which only archbishops can wear.
I glanced through the clippings.
"No mention of the sacred crimson in the press."
"Cops have kept it secret."
"Aha," I said, "does not his late Eminence look much like Grigori Yefimovich?"
"Who?" He looked up from his tumbler of Bushmills.
"The inestimable and legendary Rasputin."
Cardinal Popov was standing in front of the Divinity School in the flowing robes of Russian monasticism, complete with the hood that was propped up in front and added several inches to his already impressive height and his staff. With dark, flashing eyes, broad shoulders, a long gray beard, and the frown that is required in such pictures, he was a central-casting Russian monk. He must have created quite a stir at The University.
"He’s dead, isn’t he?"
"He was thrown into a freezing river in 1915, but there have been disputes about whether he survived and may still survive."
"This guy was teaching at the Divinity School out there, something about the Mystical Soteriology of the Old Believers. Whoever they might be...I suppose you are informed about the subject."
"One could summarize them by saying that they were fundamentalist Orthodox who went into schism over a new translation of the Bible. They were murdered in great numbers by various czars who didn’t like dissidents of any sort...Have our mutual friends across the pond made any inquiries about Brother Semyon’s death?"
Color that beard black and he would look like Rasputin. A man who lived over a hundred and forty years had the right to a white beard, did he not?
"Not a word. Finally, after a couple of days, I called them. Pretty high-level too. All I heard was what a fine scholar Brother Semyon was and what a tragedy his death was and how terrible the American crime rate was."
"They’re hiding something?"
"Maybe. That’s the way they would talk if they were. But then they may not know anything either...How come he’s in all those departments? Does he collect salaries from all of them?"
I glanced at the text of the articles. Semyon Popov was a visiting professor in the Divinity School, the Slavic Languages Department, the Committee on Social Thought, the Center for International Studies, and the College.
"Only prestige. The more departments which list you, the more important you are."
"So he was pretty important?"
"More likely as a Russian monk he was pretty fashionable."
"Blackwood, what the hell goes on in that part of the world?"
"The Vatican or the University?"
"I mean out where Russia and Poland come together?"
"It’s kind of like the Pecos River in Texas, where there’s no law west of...Between the Vistula and the Volga there isn’t much in the way of natural boundaries. So invaders have swept across those plains for a couple of thousand years—Goths, Huns, Teutons, Slavs, Wends, Magyars, Vikings, Mongols. A few of each group stayed there either on the way in or the way out. Maybe even a few Celts who headed west when the last ice age ended. The borders keep changing so at any given time, half the people are in a country they don’t want to be in. There’s lots of religi
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