The Doom Murders by Brian O’Hare
A Catholic Bishop found brutalized, naked, and oddly posed in his Belfast study sets DCI Jim Sheehan and his detectives on the trail of a killer who police suspect sees himself as the hand of God.
That suspicion deepens as the murder toll rises. All victims are Catholic, hold positions of leadership and all appear to have violated the killer’s notion of what God wants in those entrusted to uphold the faith.
Each victim, a Catholic Secondary School Principal, a Youth Worker, a Politician, and an Abbess are found naked, dead and mutilated. Each has been killed in a manner and pose that in the murderer’s mind reflects his or her sin.
Bishop Charles Loughran promoted a more liberal approach, blocked Latin masses and wrote articles seen as appealing to a secular audience. For the sin of spreading the false word of God, the killer ripped out his tongue.
Sheehan and his team sift through the evidence, follow leads, and interview potential witnesses that take them on a journey through scripture and into a mind beset by delusion disorder in their search for the serial killer.
Author Brian O’Hare’s whodunit is a masterful blend of gruesome murders and fully formed, likeable characters in a style that reminds me of Ann Cleeve’s steadfast detective, DCI Vera Stanhope.
Like Stanhope, Sheehan isn’t flashy. He’s not Sherlock Holmes smart, James Bond handsome, or even average when the 40+ year old bachelor tries to talk to a woman he finds attractive.
He is, however, a bulldog in the pursuit of evidence leaving no stone unturned. The task is made more difficult by the perpetrator’s know-how in eradicating forensic evidence.
Sheehan, a lapsed Catholic, is also hampered because he has no idea where to find clues in religious texts and symbols. He’s ably assisted by Monsignor Byrne in his religious journey, provided the monsignor, himself a suspect, isn’t the murderer.
I love fiction that gives a bit of the real world to think about. For me, The Doom Murders worked at all levels. It touched on the trailing angst of “the troubles” in Northern Ireland as an inescapable but minnow-sized red herring. And it landed with both feet into the clash of views over liberalizing the Catholic church through relatable people rather than the comic book characters and overblown plot devices of The Da Vinci Code.