Seed of Doubt Summary
by Ralph McInerny

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Seed of Doubt

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Margaret Sinclair dies in the fullness of a century it isanything but unexpected. Admittedly, there are certainirregularities about the affair, but no one, including FatherDowling, thinks in terms of foul play. In fact, the family and thecommunity of Fox River are more interested in Sinclair’s expressedintention to devote her considerable fortune to fund a foundationto further the activities of the Roman Catholic Church. Thoseheirs with an income sufficient unto their needs are surprised butnot especially disappointed. But those who expected, indeedrequired, a financial windfall to sustain their lifestyle are notonly disappointed but determined to set the will aside.

As lawyers are retained and strategies developed, a furthercomplication emerges in the shape of a valuable collection ofpaintings owned by the Sinclair family, but on loan to the FoxRiver Museum. A portion of the family proposes to sell thepaintings and use the profits to launch a financial preemptivestrike against those who would break Sinclair’s will. But thereare others who will not let the paintings leave Fox River and are prepared to go to lethal lengths to prevent their sale. Meanwhile,Sinclair’s great-granddaughter must face her own mortality, dealwith newly awakened emotions, and resolve questions of ethics andmorality that are daunting in the extreme to one soinexperienced.

SEED OF DOUBT is a definite departure from other works in theFather Dowling series. The earlier works combine humor andtheology in a manner that owes more to Father Brown than toSpenser. This work, however, departs so far from the establishedformula that Father Dowling spends his time playing second fiddleto other characters— notably the younger Ms. Sinclair.