Death looms large at Florida Panhandle religious retreat

Blood Sacrifice, by Michael Lister. Pulpwood Press. 296 pages. $26.99 hardcover, $16.99 trade paper. $2.99 Kindle ebook.

This latest entry in Michael Lister’s John Jordan mystery series takes Jordan away from his usual territory as chaplain at a large correctional institution and into the world of exorcism and murder at an otherwise serene spiritual retreat in Florida’s Panhandle. Jordan comes to St. Ann’s Abbey concerned about his mental and spiritual health. His marriage had recently died for the second time. Moreover, the attempt to balance two conflicting callings – chaplaincy and homicide investigation – has brought him to despair. Counseled by Sister Abigail to cure his addiction to investigative opportunities, ex-cop Jordan finds himself right in the middle of one – right there at St. Ann’s.  ListerCover

As if to test him, the peaceful beauty of St. Ann’s is stained by the discovery of a man apparently drowned. Was it an accident, a suicide, or a homicide? John Jordan knows he should stay out of it, but he can’t let go. Worse yet, he must subdue his hostile feelings toward Steve Taylor, the local chief of police.

Soon, other violent incidents pile up, and it’s not clear if they are connected. Is there a common motive? Is there one perpetrator, or more than one? Most importantly for the themes and tone of the novel, how does one account for the death of young, beautiful Tammy Taylor, a sexual wild-woman who is also Steve Taylor’s cousin. Was it death by exorcism?

That seems to be the case, an exorcism gone awry. The guilty party may be Father Thomas, who performed the exorcism that led to Tammy’s death – or was it the devil, as Father Thomas insists? The physical evidence all points to Father Thomas, but his reputation for kindness and piety weakens the power of that evidence. So does his frail physical condition.

Michael Lister

Michael Lister

In “Blood Sacrifice,” Michael Lister gets readers to take the notion of demonic possession seriously:  to suspend, at least for a while, their disbelief. Just as John Jordan has learned to accept the limits of human understanding, and thereby his own limits, readers are masterfully maneuvered into entertaining possibilities that they would normally dismiss as occult nonsense. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the January 17, 2013 Naples and Bonita Springs editions of Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Lister

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