Select one of the keywords
Wages of Sin    by Penelope Williamson order for
Wages of Sin
by Penelope Williamson
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This novel continues with the period and characters first met in Mortal Sins in 1920s New Orleans. Daman (Day) Rourke is an intuitive homicide cop with a wild side and a soft core. He's a widower with a seven-year-old (and delightfully strong willed) daughter Katie, and a brother who is a troubled priest. He's the son of an alcoholic cop, was an air ace in World War I, and holds a law degree. Rourke's lover is silent screen sensation Remy Lelourie, who is torn between her passion for Day and for her career. They share 'a hard shell of hurt and loneliness and a gambler's need to test the limits.' Rourke's partner Fio suspects Remy of murder and Day of its cover-up.

The novel opens to the point of view of a nutcase with a Romeo complex, the object of his obsession being Remy. He pens a note to her ('Are you scared yet?') in his own blood and muses about other women he has sacrificed. Then Rourke is called to a murder scene - a tortured and oddly crucified priest is found dead in a macaroni factory, a place inexplicably shunned by vagrants. Father Pat's autopsy reveals a big surprise. Also enriching the plot are battered wives, a sniper, a loan shark, the Ku Klux Clan and a (fictional) first use of the electric chair on a young black chimney sweep convicted of two rape/murders of young women.

The archbishop is concerned about scandals that could damage the church. Rourke, on the other hand, is after the truth and sees a murder victim as 'like a kaleidoscope ... You do a little twisting and you get a whole different picture.' He juggles his investigation of the priest's murder and concern about his brother's possible involvement, with the imminent execution of the chimney sweep, and anxiety about the threats to Remy. More young women die, the pace accelerates, and the investigation unpeels layers of motivation. Rourke sees past actions and choices as 'stones you've piled on your back' that 'slow you down, until one way or the other and somewhere down the line, your past catches up with you.'

Even after Rourke slogs it out with the priest's killer, he doesn't find all the answers, telling us that some mysteries 'are destined to remain forever mysterious'. And this is one author who did a fine job of allowing me to reach the wrong conclusions, while subtly steering the plot in an entirely surprising direction. It ends with a clear hint (or is it another misdirection?) about a plot element that continues in the next episode. I can't wait - Wages of Sin is brilliant and engaging, and it has me thoroughly hooked.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews