On a blustery December morning Tommy Rowley parks his old Volvo behind the Pius XII Auditorium, carefully places his college acceptance letter on the passenger seat, pulls up his collar against the wind, and walks into the woods. Minutes later he ends his life, hoping to bury a secret forever. Almost eight years later, a glowing window is discovered during a power outage on the campus of a Boston hospital. After some claim to see an image of the Virgin Mary in the window, Saint Katherine’s Hospital quickly becomes a magnet for the devout, the curious, and the profit-minded—just as the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal is spinning out of control.
Meanwhile, stories of blackmail and conspiracy surface, secrets are revealed, and events escalate to a violent and unanticipated climax. As one of the characters says, “There’s no end to the Tommy Rowley tragedy.”
In this fast-paced and suspenseful novel the plans and motives of its colorful characters emerge and finally erupt into open conflict. At once satiric and spiritual, comic and deeply serious, Murphy’s fiction plunges readers into a vibrant community of strong traditions and beliefs whose shared culture cannot conceal its fierce rivalries, and the constant threat of its ideals from secular and clerical opportunists. The story will captivate anyone who has pondered the actions of people mesmerized by unexplained phenomena. The questions it raises—of the proper response to evil acts, of the durability of loyalty, of competing visions of justice—will stay with readers long after the story ends.
It was weird to see the Mount of Olives parking lots so empty. Even on those rare days when he got there early, the only spaces left would be in the second lot, behind Pius XII Auditorium. He considered parking near the half dozen cars in the first lot, but settled on putting the old Volvo behind a couple of yellow school buses in back of the building. He felt much better. Now that he had a plan, the panicky feeling was gone and he was thinking clearly. The wind kicked up some leaves that the grounds people missed. Another snowless Christmas. He remembered one of those TV weather guys saying that Boston gets a white Christmas only once in seven years. Tough on the little kids who need to believe in Santa and his sleigh. You could burn through a whole childhood without the reassurance of snow on the roof.
Terrence Murphy spent his career as an internist in Boston. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Brookline, Massachusetts. This is his first novel.