What is a crime and what is a sin? Malachy’s Gloriam by C. M. Martello, set amidst Chicago’s Irish-American community, dances with this distinction.
Malachy Madden, disbarred criminal defense attorney, manager of the Shamrock Bar, and now “consultant-for-hire” on unusual cases, isn’t looking for redemption. According to his code, he’s done nothing wrong. He did the crime to avoid the sin: the likelihood that an innocent client would go to prison. Now, he’s serving up justice to the powerful who prey on the weak. In Hollywood shorthand, he’s an Irish wise guy with a slightly tarnished heart of gold.
When a representative of a mysterious committee enlists Malachy to prove that Father Bari, a charismatic pastor of Mother Cabrini Shrine in an old Italian neighborhood, is innocent of sexually abusing a young boy, he has a personal connection to the case. Malachy grew up with Cardinal O’Grady, Archbishop of Chicago, “a clever man with a hard heart,” who has perverted the AMDG dictum into all for the greater glory of O’Grady rather than God.
Martello treats the harrowing subject of clerical child abuse head-on, but seasons the story with the salt of Irish humor—some of it the kind that burns the wound before the laugh lifts the darkness.
Malachy counts on members of a multi-talented crew who share his values and his willingness to skirt the law when necessary. Kevin is a fellow Marine and Vietnam vet. The Count fought with the Polish Resistance as a boy in World War II. Sean is the only person so far who’s met the requirements—“published Irish poets with an extensive knowledge of Irish culture and history, ancient and modern”—to get credit extended at the Shamrock. Then there’s Bridget, who vocally opposes Sean’s status and nearly everything else. The FBI-hating taskmaster of the Shamrock, she is a gray-haired Irish lass who knows her way around a baseball bat. And from time to time, Malachy isn’t above calling in favors from a network of people he’s helped out of their own scrapes. Martello navigates the seamy corners of Chicago and humankind with an informed confidence. Over the course of the crew’s investigation, Martello shares stories of his characters’ pasts. Martello reveals his hero’s history through Malachy’s memories of his father, “an ardent Irish nationalist who blew things up in his young days,” and of his deceased Italian wife, Maria, who took her bawdy aunt’s advice to “date the Irish if she wanted a talker: ‘Your ears will be more sore than the other part.’”
Malachy and his crew, this brotherhood of sinners, may not quite win the full justice they hope for, but they do make sure those who think they are above the law pay a temporal price for their sins. Near the end of their investigation, there’s a hint of another case on the horizon. It’d be a crime if there isn’t.
—Mary Ellen Prindiville
Malachy's Gloriam is published by Amika Press and is available from Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobobooks.com, Amikapress.com, and Bookstores
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