When Father Michael Birney is savagely knifed to death in the middle of saying his vespers, there's a veritable laundry list of suspects, not the least of which is a satanic cult that's opened a competing "church" only a few blocks away. Additionally, some gangbangers have been fighting in the church and ran afoul of the priest. There's also a very irate parishioner who's been arguing vehemently with Father Birney over the collection plate. Detectives Steve Carella and Collon Hawes of the 87th Precinct are going to have their work cut out for them trying to nail this killer.
At the same time, Hal Willis's girlfriend, who happens to be a former prostitute, is threatened by a couple of very evil thugs from out of her past. She keeps Willis largely in the dark and attempts to deal with the situation herself, which may or may not be such a great idea.
The investigation of the priest's murder is complex and entertaining; the subplot involving Willis's girlfriend, not so much. Part of my problem with this subplot is that the girlfriend's actions don't make a lot of sense to me and are not all that believable. Beyond that, this is a novel about the detectives of the 87th precinct who really have no role in the subplot. As a practical matter, the only two members of the squad who get real any face time here are Carella and Hawes, which is a bit unusual for this series.
I enjoyed the book, but it didn't grab me to the extent that most of the others in the series have, so three stars for me.