|Scribners, 1951, 1st US edition|
Father Duffy is almost as conflicted as the haunted young man who confesses his crime. He wants the unknown man to go to the police, promises he will visit him and help him make right of what is clearly sinful. Only when the priest learns of a bludgeoning death of a prostitute, coincidentally one of his parishioners, does he realize that the killer may have been the anonymous young man in his confessional. After all, there was all that obsessive talk of a hammer that disturbed the priest. Father Duffy turns sleuth and aims to learn as much as he can about the victim. In doing so he eventually learns the identity of the young man confessor and why he committed such a brutal crime.
The novel is built around the framework of a detective novel with a simultaneous police investigation playing out as Father Duffy does his more humanistic detective work. Occasionally the two stories meet and priest and lieutenant share with each other what they have learned. All the while the emphasis is always on character and behavior and not the plot or the crime.
Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone, a list of notable detective novels of the 20th century.
Some of the psychology is perhaps too Freudian for a modern reader's tastes, but nonetheless there is a sophistication in the presentation of a man whose dysfunctional homelife leads him to a life of crime. It is sympathetic portrait Davis paints and never with lurid colors.