Author: C.S. Farrelly

Publisher: Cavan Bridge Press

ISBN-10: 0998749303

ISBN-13: 978-0998749303

C.S. Farrelly’s debut novel, The Shephard’s Calculus, is an exploration of the often negative presence of the Catholic Church in America. The issues Farrelly delves into include predatory priests, the church’s cover-ups of these pedophiles, the church’s wish to obtain power and wealth at the expense of their parishioners, and the drive to influence a presidential election by pressuring all priests and bishops to campaign for a pro-life candidate.

Farrelly dramatizes these issues using a wide cast of important characters. There’s journalist Peter Merrick who’s investigating the life of his late mentor, Jesuit priest James Ingram. There’s incumbent president Arthur Wyncott who, despite being a fiscal conservative, isn’t as religious as his opponents like the independent Thomas Archer who wears his faith on his very public sleeve. There’s Milton Casey, Wyncott’s campaign chief strategist, and his aide Ally Larkin who try to find a path through the religious zealots and their power broking maneuvers to re-elect their president. There is Owen Feeney, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who faces nearly a billion dollars in payments to victims of sex abuse while Merrick uncovers just how often Feeney transferred pedophile priest from one parish to another rather than do anything that would make their crimes publicly embarrassing. There’s Cardinal Mulcahy who thinks there are trades to be made to keep Wyncott in the White House and accommodate the wishes of his church.

Compromises, uneasy choices, and calculations become part of the cynical mix when these characters are forced to choose between their consciences or their church, their principles or their political beliefs. In some cases, the lines between right and wrong seem rather obvious. In many others, the lines are blurry, muddy, and not easily balanced or navigated.

While Farrelly is blending political intrigue with religious conspiracies, no reader should expect another offering in the mold of an overheated Dan Brown thriller. There’s no over-the-top fantasizing about age-old secret societies or long-buried textual mysteries. Instead, the story is closer to a police procedural where the events and characters are extremely believable and often quite down-to-non-celestial earth. Many readers may find the situations, many familiar from the headlines, quite uncomfortable and much too close to home.

Still, the tone is quite balanced and the conclusion surprisingly optimistic even with the final death scene. So this book gives us a thoughtful look into the concerns Farrelly presents with few black- and- white answers.