My latest review for Catholic Fiction.net is for a novel entitled “In Shepherd’s Clothing” by Mark Matenaer:
The author describes his novel, “In Shepherd’s Clothing,” as a romantic suspense. The main protagonist is a priest. I suppose I’m naive because I wondered “Who is going to experience the romance in this novel?” I also wondered “Who is the Devil in this story?” It didn’t take long to figure out either one.
I groaned when I read the quote by George Carlin at the beginning of the novel: “I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own so both of them together is certain death.”
The book starts out with teenaged Frank Crosby taking his four-year-old sister, Angela, to the mall on Christmas Eve. He lets go of her hand for a moment and she vanishes. She is later found murdered. Compelling start. The author had me hooked.
Fast-forward 14 years. Frank is now Fr. Frank, a priest who carries the guilt of losing his sister. He is called in to the local “conservative” cardinal’s office. Cardinal Rhuman tells Fr. Frank that he’s being sent away from the diocese. The young priest’s liberal leanings and practices are just too much for our antagonist Rhuman. Soon we find out that Rhuman and other famous clerics and politicians are members of a secret, exclusive brotherhood purportedly founded by a former pope. The brotherhood is involved in immoral and licentious activity. Rhuman and the other members will stop at nothing to keep the brotherhood secret.
Fr. Frank soon meets Angela (who happens to be the same age and have the same name as his dead sister). She mysteriously shows up at the rectory having just escaped an attempt on her life. Angela has discovered some secret information about the “Brotherhood,” and there are many who want her dead because of this. The priest vows to keep her safe in more ways than one.
First the positive: the author’s writing style is very, very good and he has a talent for writing fiction. This is what kept me reading. There were some interesting plot lines, turns and twists in the story and, as a reader, I appreciated them and found the book entertaining.
Now the negative: The basic plot was unbelievable. There were times I felt that Frank and Angela were part of a Three Stooges episode. Everywhere they turn, they’re being chased and someone’s trying to kill them. And while I know there are many liberal priests and nuns, I find it hard to believe that most priests and nuns are as liberal as the characters in this book.
There were numerous typos and grammatical issues that could have been fixed by a competent editor. And the cover is a plain brick red color with white words (this in itself screams “self-published!”)
Characters are fairly well-developed although most of the protagonists are liberal Catholics (and yet described in a positive manner) and the antagonist Cardinal Rhuman is supposed to be “conservative” (and obviously evil).
I am the author of four books, so I know and appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go into writing, editing and publishing a book, especially a novel. And while I applaud the author’s excellent and competent writing style, the story and beliefs set forth could confuse some Catholics, especially young adults who might not know their faith well.
Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach