Title: Now and Then, Amen (Scobie Malone #5)

Author: Jon Cleary

Reader: Shaun Grindell

Category: Mystery

Audio published: May 1, 2013 by AudioGo (First published 1988)

Rating: 3½ out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Amazon | AudioGo

A nun is found murdered on the steps of the Quality Couch, Sydney’s most expensive house of ill repute. She is Sister Mary Magdalene, an idealistic young woman who previously had worked at a mission in Nicaragua. Detective Inspector Scobie Malone, that most human of cops, picks up the trail when he discovers that her real name was Teresa Hourigan–the illegitimate granddaughter of Fingal Hourigan, one of Australia’s most powerful businessmen, who is currently entertaining some rich contras at his palatial home. The case leads Malone deep into Hourigan’s murky past and threatens to expose the secret the old man has kept since 1929: the reason he hurriedly left Chicago in fear for his life. It also threatens to destroy his ambitions for his son, Archbishop Kerry Hourigan, to become the first-ever Australian pope. But Kerry’s fanatical anti-communism has already led him to acts that will fatally endanger his standing in the Vatican.

I’ve heard of the Contras but wasn’t paying much attention to world events in the 80s, so I didn’t know as much going into Now and Then, Amen as I probably should have, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. I also always thought of Australia as a Protestant country, I’m not sure why, but apparently they have a large Roman Catholic population too.

I think my favorite part of the story wasn’t the mystery, to be honest I was a little disappointed in the whodunit(s), but the mix of religion and politics was, as always, intriguing. The Hourigans are ambitious, all of them, and even for the Archbishop and the nun, their “calling” never felt like the reason for their actions. Maybe it was hers, she died too early to be sure, but for him it’s about money and power.

I don’t really have much to say. Scobie is the series character and he’s a good, honest detective. He’ll follow the leads wherever they take him, even to the Vatican. I wish he didn’t feel so bad about how is job effects his family, but it makes sense. I liked how, in the midst of the mystery, it traced the Hourigans from Capone’s time in Chicago through to the current, which in this case is the 1980s, through flash backs and reminiscences, giving kind of an overview of history. The plot moved along at a good pace, even when Scobie doesn’t have much to go on.

Shaun Grindell is Scobie Malone to me, give him the right attitude and a touch of an accent. He distinguished between the characters well. Honestly, I forget about him as a reader after the first chapter or two, just hearing the story, if that makes sense.

It’s a solid story, not outstanding, but good.