|Father Duffy/Father McMahon
(creator: Dorothy Salisbury Davis)
|Father Duffy, who appears in just the first book below, is assistant pastor of St Timothy's, one of the largest parishes in Manhattan. He had been a chaplain in the army. It is said that "he hated it and he won't join any of their organisations." But "they say when he was in the army the boys thought the world of him. He'd go through the barracks of a Sunday morning shouting: 'Come on you bloody heathens, get the hell out of your beds and into the chapel!' " . Men still saw him as "a regular -- a right guy." He is still young, and is intelligent, conscientious and very determined to follow things through. And that is just about all we are told about him.
Father Joseph McMahon (featured in the second book below) is a much more human and rounded character. His age is around 40. He is one of four priests at St Peter's in New York, which "was becoming more and more a poor parish" and includes a rapidly increasing minority of parishioners who are bilingual or, as McMahon puts it, semilingual. He himself had come from a working class background.
Dorothy Salisbury Davis (1916 - ) is the author of twenty novels as well as short stories. She was an adopted child who grew up in rural Illinois. She worked in advertising and as a librarian, then published her first novel in 1949. She became President of the Mystery Writers of America. Her book A Gentle Murderer was chosen as one of the Haycraft-Queen cornerstones of detective fiction. She herself thinks that Where the Dark Streets Go (televised by CBS as Broken Vows) was one of her best books. She says that in all her books she tries to "show, don't tell" - and credits readers with the ability to work some things out for themselves. She married character actor Harry Davis in 1946.
A Gentle Murderer (1951)
Duffy makes a determined detective, effectively following up on the few clues that the murderer had given him. And the more he discovers about the murderer's past, the more understanding he has for him. He proves so effective in following his trail that Sergeant Goldsmith of the local police, also hotly in pursuit, keeps a very close eye on him so that he too is eventually led to the killer whose motive, it turns out, "was saving souls by getting them out of this world".
This makes quite an interesting story, but there is no really exciting action, and Father Duffy himself seems less real than some of the women characters such as the buxom widow, Mrs Galli, and her sweet and virginal seventeen year old daughter Katie, both of whom fall for the murderer's charms.
Where the Dark Streets Go (1970)
There are a number of lively and realistic characters, including Mrs Priscilla Phelan who had been trying to coax her husband back into bed with her, a "problem about which she had been coming to him (Father McMahon) off and on for several weeks." But Dan Phelan is not only a suspected murderer, but, it turns out, a homosexual, and McMahon persuades him to see a psychiatrist: "He can't change me," said Phelan,
It is a revealing, interesting, unpredictable and very well-told story that holds the attention throughout. Recommended.
|Few other crime novels use an author's portrait as the cover illustration, as on this book featuring Father Duffy.
The paperback version below is far less restrained.
|This is by far the better book. It features Father McMahon.|