"Wages of Sin"
(Reviewed by Kam Aures MAY 15, 2003)Wages of Sin is set in the year 1927 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Father Patrick Walsh is found crucified over burning votive candles in an abandoned macaroni factory. Father Walsh was a very popular priest at Our Holy Lady of the Rosary with a style "more evangelical than Catholic." His flamboyance and unorthodoxy had gotten him in trouble with the Church hierarchy more than once, yet he was known affectionately as "Father Pat" to his flock and his fans, who adored him. However, Father Pat was hiding a shocking secret that will be uncovered during the investigation.
Daman Rourke, along with his partner Fiorello Prankowski, are the homicide detectives called to the scene. Damon is dating movie star, Remy Lelourie, "reigning queen of the silent screen." At the same time that he is investigating the brutal murder of Father Pat, young girls are being murdered around the city. These girls all have one thing in common; they belong to a "club" paying tribute to Remy, "the Fantastics." As these girls are turning up dead, Remy herself is also receiving threatening messages. One such message is a note written in blood and left in her bedroom, which reads, "Are you scared yet, Remy?"
Yet another event taking place at the same time is the execution of seventeen-year old Titus Dupre, the first to be put to death in New Orleans by use of the electric chair. Dupre was convicted of the murder of Nina Duboche who was raped and then strangled. He was also believed to have committed the same acts on Mercedes Bloom, but her body had never been recovered. After Dupre's death by electrocution, however, similar murders as the ones he was convicted of continue. Was he wrongly accused?
Throughout Rourke's investigations into these matters, some astonishing secrets are uncovered. Some of these secrets involve the priests at Our Holy Lady of the Rosary, one of which is Rourke's brother Paul. Others are truths unearthed about Father Pat and his childhood. And still others are revealed about the women of the church. Penelope Williamson is a very suspenseful writer who gives the reader many plot twists along the way. Just when you think you have the story figured out, she throws something else into the mix.
Wages of Sin is the first "historical suspense" novel that I have ever read and I was very impressed with the plot and the writing style. It was interesting to go back to 1927 New Orleans, particularly since I just visited New Orleans for the first time a few months ago. A lot of the landmarks were familiar as well as the street names. 1927, however, is a different era. The police are corrupt and make more money being paid off for "looking the other way" than they do in regular wages. The author does excellent job of transporting the reader back to the speakeasies, bordellos, flappers and bootleggers of the late 1920's.
This is Williamson's second novel that features both Daman Rourke and Remy Lelourie as the main characters. The first novel is Mortal Sins, which is also a historical suspense novel set in the 1920's in New Orleans. Throughout Wages of Sin there are some references to the events that occurred in Mortal Sins, particularly that Remy Lelourlie was accused of killing her husband.
Once a former historical romance author, Williamson has successfully made the transition (which other romance writers have attempted but failed) to writing suspense novels. Wages of Sin is a very entertaining, suspenseful, page-turner and I look forward to more novels of this genre from Williamson in the future.
- Amazon readers rating: from 10 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Wages of Sin at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
The Daman Rourke Series:
Historical Romance novels:
- Beloved Rogue (1988)
- Hearts Beguiled (1989)
- A Wild Yearning (1990)
- Keeper of the Dream (1992)
- Once in a Blue Moon (1993)
- Heart of the West (1995)
- The Outsider (1996)
- The Passions of Emma (1997)
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About the Author:
Penelope Williamson is an internationally renowned author of historical romances. She has more than 1.8 million books. She lives with her husband in Mill Valley, California.