A Rebel Bishop Mystery
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Published: April 2018
Paul A. Barra’s latest historical novel features a real-life Catholic bishop who owned slaves and was such a fervent and effective anti-abolitionist that Horace Greeley called him The Rebel Bishop. His name was Patrick N. Lynch, a polymath who was a linguist, scholar, geologist, preacher and writer. Lynch also ran the Union blockade on a commission from President Jefferson Davis. He was the ordinary of both Carolinas from 1859 to 1882, but he was extraordinary in many ways. Here’s the perfect way to be entertained while learning about the Rebel Bishop and Southern Catholicism.
In Barra’s novel, Lynch’s aide rushes to investigate the murder of a wealthy sacristan at the altar rail of the cathedral in the Spring of 1861. Father Tom Dockery rushes because war is about to light off and investigates because the victim was having an affair with the wife of the police chief, who becomes the first suspect. The wife becomes a suspect soon after when she seduces Dockery into believing her alibi. Besides seduction, there’s a beating on a side street south of Broad, a hanging on the banks of the Ashley River and a shootout in Devil’s Hole before the killer is exposed and brought to justice.
That’s the framework of the book, but slavery is the subtext that adds texture to the tale. Dockery’s journey toward understanding his mentor’s defense of the South’s favorite institution is the real story of “Death of a Sacristan.” He is surprised to find the Rebel Bishop’s arguments thoughtful and compelling.
Death of a Sacristan was vetted by the eleventh Bishop of Charleston and by the historian of the diocese. It also received a review from a well-known Catholic publisher:
“With a spicy dash of murder, two heaping tablespoons of savory Old South ambiance, and three cups of boiling mystery, author Paul Barra cooked up a tasty whodunit, in Death of a Sacristan. On the eve of civil war, Charleston is rocked by an unspeakable crime: a killing at the altar of the cathedral. What follows is an entrancing tale of historical fiction in which unlikely sleuths investigate a colorful cast of southern characters. Like a feast of low-country shrimp and grits, Death of a Sacristan is deliciously satisfying!” - Kenneth E. Nowell, Author of the best selling travel guide: Rome and the Vatican – Guide 4 Pilgrims Publisher, Vero House Publishing
About the Author
Paul A. Barra, a former naval officer who was decorated for his work on the rivers of the Mekong Delta, including Republic of Vietnam medals, the Bronze Star with Combat “V” and the Combat Action Ribbon, worked as a reporter and chemistry teacher after the war. He was the senior staff writer for the Diocese of Charleston, the director of religious education at a Charleston parish and an award-winning freelance magazine writer who graduated with a BS from Niagara University and an MS from Loyola University of New Orleans. Barra was Teacher-of-the-Year at Greenwood District 52 and at St. Joseph’s Catholic School before becoming a full-time novelist.
His previous publications include four science readers with Houghton-Mifflin (2006); the true story of a Catholic high school that succeeded despite diocesan opposition, St. Joe’s Remarkable Journey (Tumblar House, 2010); a juvenile adventure called The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp (Brownridge Publishing, 2012); and the mysteries A Death in the Hills (Argus Books, 2014), Astoria Nights (Black Opal Books, 2017), and Death of a Sacristan; a Rebel Bishop Mystery (Black Opal Books, 2018). The Permanent Press will release his hardcover thriller Westfarrow Island in early 2019.