Greeley avoids this with his Blackie Ryan novels by going for interesting locales...he takes Ryan out of Chicago without taking the Chicago out of the good bishop.
So, without giving the story away (a sin for a reviewer of a mystery novel), suffice to say that Blackie Ryan has a wonderful time in Paris, with his boss, the more-than-formidable Sean Cardinal Cronin. My only major complaint is that the love-story-subplot in this novel is a bit formula.
Greeley's descriptions of Paris are excellent, giving the reader a good feel for the neighborhoods and the metro without being a Fodor's book. _Beggar Girl_ doesn't tackle any serious hot-button issues of the modern Catholic Church, but the author still throws out tidbits that make those who are interested in church politics and such say "hmmmmmm."
Greeley's series hero, Bishop Blackie Ryan, is on a mission for "Cardinal Sean:" find Jean-Claude, a young Dominican priest who vanished without a trace while conducting visitors around cathedral ruins. Jean-Claude had a popular television program and was much admired by the students and nuns who were his ministry, yet everyone saw him differently, and all agreed he had mysterious depths and a magical smile.
Bishop Blackie has a gift for unearthing hidden depths in people as well as clues for his investigation. Befriending a young woman who seems out of place as a Cathedral beggar, he enlists her help in tracing the young priest who often seemed equally out of place as a Dominican priest.
The story line has the fascination of a moderately difficult crossword puzzle, the kind you know you can solve if you just put in the time. It also has about as much action and cliff-hanging action -- and short-term satisfaction as the Sunday crossword. Greeley gives us the world as we would like it to be, where problems are solved by a convenient phone call to Chicago and a couple of FedEx packages, and even the Cardinal benevolently distinguishes the Christian from the Church.
As Greeley is careful to note in an afterward, this is a tale of fiction. Unlike many readers, I was surprised by the ending, which fit the clues but seemed highly implausible. I will say only that Greeley gets the chance to share his very politically correct, enlightened views of the Church and the world. And he might encourage us all to beware of reading our own beliefs into situations that are not what they seem.
I'm not usually a fan of Bishop Blackie -- but I liked this one!
The author, Fr. Andrew Greeley, moves the venue for this Bishop Blackie mystery to Paris, and it seems that he certainly knows Paris: at least the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the subway system, many subway stops and the little bistros on the Left Bank. Using this as backdrop, Fr. Greeley has Bishop John Blackwood Ryan accompany his Cardinal, Sean Cronin, of Chicago, to Paris, where Bishop Blackie is impressed as a detective in the service of the local cardinal. "Blackie" is requested to find the young television priest, Jean-Claude, who had disappeared during a TV shoot in the 3rd Century basement of Notre Dame.
Needing an interpreter, Bishop Blackie "stumbles" on Marie-Bernadette, an accomplished musician who is begging outside the Church of St. Germain. Greeley's fascination with thing Celtic (pronounced as KEL-tik) means that Marie-Bernadette's accomplishments are in Celtic music, whether from the Celtic region of France or the Basque region of Spain, or, of course, from Scotland and Ireland. This makes a nice little sub-plot, with Bishop Blackie officiating at Marie-Bernadette's marriage at the end of the book.
Of course, Blackie solves the mystery of the disappearance of the television evangelist priest, Jean-Claude, and while doing so, Author Greeley comments on the loneliness of the celibate clergy, their trials and temptations. I couldn't help wondering if there was some autobiographical issues buried in those comments. The story's main plot had a nice little twist that I should have been able to catch earlier than I did!
Narrator George Guidall was again excellent. I have listened to him as the voice of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee in the Tony Hillerman mysteries, and it is amazing how Mr. Guidall can range from "flat" Navajo tone in those books to an excited French accent for the exalted cardinal of Paris in this book. I enjoyed the book and listening to Mr. Guidall as I commuted on I-495, the ring road around Boston... Five Stars.
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