Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bleeder by John Desjarlais

Bleeder is the name of a mystery novel by John Desjarlias about the murder of a local parish priest.  With the death of a beloved local priest that allegedly possesses the gift of the wounds of the stigmata, during the Good Friday mass two days before Easter, an invesitgation begins. For those unfamiliar with some of the traditions and mysticism of the Catholic Church, perhaps some background would be relevant. The concept of the stigmata is an alleged miracle whereas the gifted individual in question bears wounds and pains parallel to the wounds that Jesus sustained on his death on the cross.  Well known Catholic saints such as the midevil St. Francis of Assis and the contemporary Padre Pio were thought to have been gifted with the burden of these wounds in their lifetimes. The alleged wounds which corresponded to those of Jesus crucified- from the hands/ wrists, feet, side as well as head, would bleed at various times.  Usually the individual inflicted with the stigmata, would in humility, maintain a low profile. Thus, the only outward glimpse an onlooker may have ever seen of the stigmata would be the tell-tale bandaged hands.

The fictional priest, in John Desjarlais' book, Bleeder, also was rumored to have had the wounds of the stigmata-  of which the murderer was well aware and exploited when carefully planning the priests's murder on one of the most holy Catholic mass services.  While the superstitious religious church-goers assumed it to be part of the miracle of the stigmata, obviously the secular police force investigated the situation as a crime. The hero of the story is framed by the unknown, yet mysterious murderer.  The mystery involves the quest to find who would want the priest dead, and for what motive. Apparantly, our hero must play investigator and conduct his own investigation, in order to clear his own name, sifting through the various characters. Coincidently, many have some loose motives for wishing the priest dead. Without going into details that would spoil the book for anyone who has yet to read it, the ending is a bit of a suprise and the culprit is a character that the reader would least suspect, whose motive for murder is perhaps at best weak and somewhat mundane.  As to whether the fictional priest miraculously actually sustained the wounds of the stigmata, or if the wounds were symptoms of his health issues is left up to the reader to decide.  The author of this story suggests scientific causes as well as the miraculous as equally plausible explanations. This is a mystery that the secular as well as religious reader will appreciate.  The title of the book itself, Bleeder,has a twofold meaning in that the priest's medical condition involves issues with his blood. The strength of this book lies in its objectivity in that it does not make any assumptions as to whether the idea of the stigmata is a hoax, superstitious delusion, or if it is in fact, truly a miracle.  I receieved this book Sophia press as a blogger for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

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