Title: Unholy City by Carrie Smith
Claire Codella Mystery Series Book Three
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 310 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Despite their rocky history, Detective Claire Codella and Precinct Detective Brian Haggerty come together when senior churchwarden Philip Graves’s bloody body is found lying in the herb garden of historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side just two days before Good Friday. Upon first glance, it looks like a random act of big city violence, but it soon becomes clear churchwarden Philip’s death was the result of a meticulously calculated ploy by someone who knew him.
There are five vestry members and a choir director in addition to the ten homeless men asleep in the church basement. Any one of them could have done it, but what did Philip Graves do to warrant such a merciless death? Struggling to share the case and salvage their personal relationship, Claire, Brian and trusted Detective Eduardo Muñoz work around the clock to uncloak the desires, secrets, and resentments that find home through the iron gates and into the hidden beauty of one historic Romanesque church in Unholy City, the haunting third installment in Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella mysteries.
In Unholy City, the third outing in Carrie Smith’s brilliant Claire Codella Mystery series, prominent members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church fall under suspicion following the murder of churhwarden Philip Graves. This newest release can be read as a standalone, but I HIGHLY recommend the previous novels as well.
Following a vestry meeting, Rose Bartruff discovers Philip’s body in the church’s herb garden. Fellow committee member Dr. Susan Bentley performs CPR to no avail. Detective Brian Haggerty catches the case, but upon discovering Philip’s death was due to foul play, his former partner and current girlfriend Detective Claire Codella is called in to investigate. Immediately discovering the body of church secretary, Emily Flounders, Claire adds Detective Eduardo Munoz to her team. Between the three detectives, they interview Roger Sturgis, Peter Linton, Vivian Wakefield, Rector Anna Brookes, Todd Brookes and Stephanie Lund. While they do not immediately uncover a viable suspect or motive for the murders, Claire is certain that, other than Rose, no one is being completely honest with them. Will Codella, Haggerty and Munoz uncover the truth before the killer strikes again?
Although she is completely recovered from her cancer treatments, Claire continues to navigate her often contentious relationship with her boss Lt. Dennis McGowan. Ducking him as much as possible, she concentrates on interviewing suspects and following leads as she, Haggerty and Munoz try to zero in on what happened during the vestry meeting at the church. Feeling confident Rose is the only person from the meeting who is not hiding anything, Claire wants to know what happened during a crucial fifteen minute block of time when Rose was out of the room. Haggerty feels like Anna might be their weakest link since it obvious she has something to get off her chest, but will she find the courage to spill her secrets? Anna’s husband Todd was not present at the meeting but his sudden appearance during the investigation puts him on the suspect list too. Long time member and junior churchwarden, Vivian is upset about Philip’s plans to raise much needed revenue, but would she murder him to protect the church? Vivian’s nephew-in-law Roger is definitely hiding something, but how far would he go to keep his secret from being discovered? Susan is agonizing over what the murder investigation will reveal about her life, but is she responsible for killing Philip? Peter is furious that his proposal to bring in money through the cemetery and crematorium is struck down but is he angry enough to kill Philip for presenting another means for raising money?
With three puzzling murders, a vast pool of suspects and no obvious motive, Unholy City is an intriguing police procedural. Despite juggling her new romance with Haggery and her tense relationship with McGowan, Claire remains intensely focused on uncovering the truth about Philip and Emily’s deaths. The investigation moves at an even pace with Carrie Smith cleverly concealing the killer’s identity and motive for the murders until the novel’s exciting, action-packed conclusion. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this outstanding addition to the Claire Codella Mystery series to fans of the genre.