Prayer, Philip Kerr, Putnam Publications, 409 pages, $26.95.
Philip Kerr, well known for his nine volume series featuring pre-war, World War 2 and Cold War detective Bernie Gunther, a German, often tackles ethical and spiritual issues in his detective novels and other works. Prayer offers a Scotland born and U.S. raised Gil Martins working on the domestic terrorism cases for the FBI. Beginning with his Scottish first communion, Martins becomes an angry and skeptical Roman Catholic. Marrying an American evangelical and working in Texas, he encounters an assortment of churches and responds to them with a declaration of atheism. Yet, his closest friend is a Roman Catholic bishop who points him to the possibility of a conspiracy relating to the suspicious deaths of outspoken atheists.
The possibility of a conspiracy is somewhat confirmed by Martins during his independent investigation and then the FBI, to a very small degree, becomes involved because the deaths occur in several time zones. The stakes are raised because the deaths are not murders but suicides and there is no trace of a killer at the scene of the deaths. Martins' marriage dissolves, his atheism is tested, and Martins comes to grips with the possibility that the evidence is leading him to Old Testament declarations and the possibility that there may be one angel, reserved by God, who carries out judgement.
Kerr holds Martins' investigations, Christian faiths, atheism in balance in Prayer and the conclusion is sound and satisfying. The close of novel allows this reader to hope that Gil Martins is heard from again.