William X(avier) Kienzle Newgate Callendar - Essay

Newgate Callendar

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Assault with Intent] is the latest in the series featuring Father Koesler, the Catholic priest who operates out of a parish in the Detroit area. In this case, is there a homicidal maniac on the loose, who intends to decimate the Detroit priesthood? Someone makes several murder attempts, and the newspapers (and then the media in general) get into the act. The two Detroit newspapers' star reporters, Patricia Lennon and Joe Cox (who happen to be living together), are on the story. (They have appeared previously in this series.) But when an attempt is made on his life, everything becomes very personal to Father Koesler. Of course he finally figures everything out.

But Mr. Kienzle has set up straw men. The far-right plotters are too ridiculous to be taken seriously, all the more so because they are depicted in a farcical rather than a serious manner. They are too blundering, too stupid, too bigoted, too unlovely to have any real contact with life. In addition, the book is hampered, as the three previous ones have been, by the author's insistence on dragging in elements of Catholic liturgy, extraneous details about the way priests think and operate.

Mr. Kienzle seems to be something of a liberal, but his excursions outside the main plot lines only result in didacticism while not furthering the plot.

Newgate Callendar, "Crime: 'Assault with Intent'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1982 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 23, 1982, p. 41.