The Priest by Gerard O’Donovan

November 23, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): Struggling to find his feet back in Ireland after a lengthy posting with Europol in Spain, drugs specialist Mike Mulcahy is plunged into unfamiliar territory when the daughter of a politician suffers a horrific sex attack. Dragged into the case against his will, Mulcahy becomes convinced there is more to it than a random frenzied sexual assault, especially when he discovers that the weapon used by the attacker to torture the victim was a crucifix.

But know-it-all colleagues and politically motivated bosses, eager for a quick, uncontroversial result, ignore his belief that the attack had religious rather than sexual motivations. Sidelined and overruled, Mulcahy sets about his own investigation, but frustrations abound at every turn—until reporter Siobhan Fallon turns up asking awkward questions. As more young women are attacked and assault turns to murder, Mulcahy and Fallon are drawn into an uneasy alliance, and each step they take hurtles them ever closer to the monstrous killer known only as The Priest and a final showdown that is as explosive as it is unforgettable.

Warning: Major spoilers below!


  • I liked the “god will not be mocked” phrase that the Priest tossed around. That was a legitimate clue that adequately explained why he targeted women who wore crosses/crucifixes, yet did not behave the way the Priest thought they should.
  • The clue about Sean Rinn’s cab was similarly well-placed. It was cool that O’Donovan chose to have it buried in a police report for a speeding ticket, which allowed Mulcahy to nail him on it despite Rinn’s denials that he ever drove a cab.


  • As a police procedural, this book follows a rather formulaic pattern. For example, as soon as we spent more than a few paragraphs getting to know Siobhan, I could tell WITHOUT A DOUBT that she would clash with Mike about what to print/not to print in her stories and also be captured by the Priest before being miraculously rescued. I don’t even actively try to make predictions in books; this one was just so formulaic that it couldn’t play out any other way.
  • The writer spent way too much time on the first suspect, Scully. In these books, the first person the police picks up is NEVER the killer, and the fact that Scully was apprehended with so many pages left made it clear that he wasn’t the one. Additional suspects should have been introduced much earlier so that Scully’s innocence/guilt could somehow be in doubt.
  • I didn’t understand the Roy Orbison recordings that Siobhan was receiving. Did the author ever explain where those were coming from? Was that supposed to be the Priest who left those? And if so, why? Did he do that with the rest of his victims too? What did I miss?
  • The Priest’s attempted crucifixion of Siobhan was way over the top — and out of character. He never did that with any of his other victims and the writer gave no reason for the sudden escalation of torture.
  • Did anyone (besides the book’s stereotypical bumbling cops) really think that Sean Rinn’s gardener — rather than Rinn himself — was the Priest? That was another attempted misdirection that went nowhere.
  • The characters were mostly dull and uninteresting. I couldn’t stand Siobhan, and Mulcahy was just way too passive for my tastes. Only Brogan was decent, IMO.
  • Not a fan of the office politics within the police department because this too just smacks of cliche. Been there, done that in too many other procedurals for it to be anything noteworthy here.
  • Contrary to the publisher’s claims, the Priest was not a “serial killer”. Only one of his victims died. Serial sex offender, serial stalker, serial torturer, sure. But not serial KILLER.


I had high hopes about The Priest by Gerard O’Donovan, but was mostly disappointed. If you’ve read any crime novels before, then practically EVERY SINGLE SCENE in this book will strike you as familiar. O’Donovan breaks no new ground here, and barely even tells an interesting story. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

Leave a Reply