Det Chris Coleman

(creator: Sr Christine Kresho)

Sr Christine Kresho
Detective Christopher Coleman is 42 years old, and exactly six feet tall. He is in good physical shape, if "only" fifteen pounds overweight, and has broad shoulders, a "heavy mop of hair", and dark and and deep-set brown eyes that “spoke control and security". He is happily married with two children, a boy aged 10 and a girl aged 12, but is reluctant to tell his heavily committed Catholic wife about his own lack of faith, that he had lost as a child following his own father's violent death.

He is described as "full of questions for God, which did not make much sense because he had decided a long time ago that God was uninvolved in life here on earth. The remnant of his childhood faith prevented a total dismissal of the idea of God, but life had taught him that God had no power. The only way to survive was to be strong and self-sufficient." As for God, He “could not protect you; no matter how much you prayed, how good you were, or what ever else you did to please Him." It is his journey to faith that is at the core of this book.

Sister Christine Kresho, who has been a Sister of St Joseph since 1958, works as a pastoral associate in Our Lady of Grace parish in Silver Spring in Maryland. She had earned her Bachelor of Science in Education degree at Carlow College, Pittsburgh, and her Master of Education at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She served as an Elementary School Principal for eleven years, and also has promotional and marketing experience. She has written student texts and manuals for computer instruction. She published her first novel (reviewed below) in 2005. She explains that she writes novels about murder, sex, and violence "in hopes of inspiring discussion about who God is and is not, as well as what needs to be changed in the Catholic Church".

At the Last Supper (2005)
At the Last Supper starts promisingly enough with the failure of Father John Martin to arrive at St Joseph's Church where the congregation is awaiting him. His body is found with twelve stab wounds, and a Bible resting on his arms and open at Matthew 26: the account of the Last Supper. The two detectives sent to investigate the case are Chris Coleman, who had lost his faith as a child, and his partner Rick Russell, a practising Roman Catholic.

Not too surprisingly, their investigation is given the name of Operation Soul Search, for it is Coleman's search for faith that lies at the very heart of the story. How, he keeps demanding, could a loving God allow such dreadful things to happen? But "he not only intended to solve this crime, he was also in a confrontation with God that would not end until he had an answer that made sense". And “he felt every muscle in his body clenched in determination." Then, although he admits it to nobody, he started slipping into church first thing every morning. But it is only after there have been two more murderous attacks, and he has convinced himself that Father John had probably really been the holy and selfless figure that everybody revered, that he begins to see things differently.

On his journey to faith, he is much helped by Bishop Joe Steele, whose honesty he much respects, as when the Bishop readily admits, “Priests, and bishops, too, are struggling humans and sinful ones; often we make mistakes, sometimes horrendous ones." And he is even prepared to tackle the “why doesn't-God-do-something problem", even if the answers given in this book are the conventional explanations that it is all a result of free will, that Jesus demonstrated God's love, and that, in the words of the Bishop, “Freedom is our greatest challenge as well as our greatest gift". This does not go far to explain all the blinding cruelties of nature. But is it reasonable to ask for more in what is, after all, just a detective story?

But it is the example of the bishop's sincerity and courage when facing up to a madman with a gun in his hand that finally wins Coleman over in a strange, mystical experience in which he feels that a “glow folded around him, warm, powerful, peaceful. Embraced! Embraced! Oh God, my God! He had doubted it; he had fought it; now he was its grateful captive." And he even saw his dead father saying, “Welcome home, Christopher!" And he collapsed, unconscious.

Interestingly though all this is, it must be admitted that Coleman and Russell do not make very likely detectives. They seem in fact to be quite naive, as when, confronted with the body of a second murdered priest, complete with a Bible also open at an account of the Last Supper, Rick reacts with "I hope there is no serial message here." And, about the murderer, he goes on to state the even more obvious, "We need to get into the mind of this person".

The author is at her best with the church backgrounds with which she is so familiar and the feminist and other issues about which she cares so strongly. There are two opposing groups within St Joseph's Church: the Magdalene Witnesses (stressing the creative role of women in the church) and God's Troops (led by the hateful Deacon Cummings with his constant demands that the congregation should repent of their modern ideas). There is no doubt where the author's sympathies lie. Indeed, a bishop friend tells Bishop Steele of two Sisters who have completed their theology studies: "Hell, they know more than some of my priests; there are days, Joe, when I just feel like saying, to hell with all this crap; I'm going to ordain them!" Bishop Joe wonders if instead they might be interested in becoming pastoral administrators. The author herself is of course a pastoral assistant.

It makes an interesting and unusual, if not always entirely convincing, story.

There is a comprehensive resume of the author's career on the Catholic Web site.

The book is most easily available on Kindle.

Please sign my GUEST BOOK. All comments, contributions (or corrections) welcomed!


"At the Last Supper" cover
The content is less sensational than the cover suggests - just as well, perhaps.
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