Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: Sham Rock, A Mystery Set at the University of Notre Dame

My first book read specifically for the Fifty States mystery challenge. I read Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny. Only once I’d finished the book did I realize that he was the creator of Father Dowling and that he’d died, evidently before this book was published, which made me sad, although he was 80 and lived my dream (you know, actually finishing the books I have great ideas for).

As for the book, I picked it up because – little known fact here (if you know me, however, this is sarcasm) – I am a crazy Notre Dame football fan. I spend my Saturdays in the fall glued to the television or the radio when life permits (because although I love college football, I have four kids with activities and a very close-knit family that I visit frequently). Also, I can’t wait to try out my XM radio this season. I’m in love with it in the off-season, so I might just drive around one Saturday to see how awesome it is to be able to listen to so many games on the radio.

The mystery itself was intriguing (seriously – I read this book in one night). The main story involves three former students, one who is a financial advisor who’s hit hard times and has angry clients, one who is a Trappist monk and one who disappeared when they were in college. The monk sends a journal to the ND archives that seems to imply that the financial guy killed the one who went missing. This sparks investigations and secrets are unveiled. Naturally.

I was surprised (not knowing before I began reading who the author was other than a random name) at the heavy Catholicism in the book. It wasn’t just a novel set at Notre Dame. It was steeped in the Catholic culture. The characters were mainly religious. This wasn’t a bad thing (I was raised Catholic and would probably attend a Catholic church if our practically Bible Belt rural area had one closer than an hour away), it wasn’t over the top or anything. It was just not what I was expecting.

I would recommend it to Catholics, though not necessarily Notre Dame fans. My brother might not enjoy it, but I bet my grandmother would.

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