ST. PATRICK'S GARGOYLE
by Katherine Kurtz
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
St. Patrick’s Gargoyle is Katherine Kurtz’s expansion of her short story, “The Gargoyle’s Shadow” from the anthology In the Shadow of the Gargoyle. While an enjoyable novel, the book does not work as well as the original story because Kurtz does not seem to have been able to decide on the tone she wanted to present in the expanded work.
The original story was a tale at how Paddy, a gargoyle from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, enlisted the aid of Francis Templeton, a Knight of Malta, in bringing to justice a couple of hooligans who attacked a verger and stole some of the cathedral’s silver on the one day of the month the gargoyles are allowed to move about reasonably freely. This is repeated, almost exactly, in the opening chapters of St. Patrick’s Gargoyle. Once Paddy is forced to return to his cathedral (and the original story is concluded), Kurtz follows the aging Templeton in the aftermath of his strange experience with the gargoyle.
While not humorous, the opening chapters are reasonably light-hearted, dealing with the crime and only incidentally touching on the issues Templeton is facing as an octogenarian in Dublin. Long retired, the pride of his life is an ancient Rolls Royce which he uses for the occasional wedding. His daughter and son-in-law are trying to convince Templeton that he should give up driving due to his advanced age and their worry that he is beginning to decline into senility.
Even as Templeton tries to fend off their concerns, he finds himself drawn to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and eventually reunites with Paddy, who needs his help in obstructing an ancient plot. At this point, St. Patrick’s Gargoyle begins to evolve into a darker story. Kurtz’s sharp focus on Paddy and Templeton and their growing relationship, however, never allows the depiction of a strong villain. Because of this, the sense of danger is never fully defined and their eventual confrontation with evil is anticlimactic.
Nevertheless, Kurtz has engaged in an intriguing effort at world-building, envisioning a modern world in which supernatural forces surround the mundane. Her Dublin is a mixture of Christian theology and folklore with the world in which we live. Although it does not seem to be entirely self-consistent, many of the inconsistencies are explained away. Kurtz also notes that her version of the Christian hierarchy is not entirely orthodox, however the changes she makes are not important within the context of the story.
Francis Templeton is a well-drawn, likable character who realizes he is nearing the end of his life. Although his strained relationship with his family is a major point of contention, Kurtz does not dwell on it, instead focusing on his relationship with his godson, his burgeoning partnership with Paddy and his sense of honor and duty. Despite his age, he appears to be fully in control of his facilities and refuses to change to fit his children’s preconceived notions.
St. Patrick’s Gargoyle may not have as much depth as many of Kurtz’s previous books, but it accomplishes the same mixture of reality and fantasy which characterizes her works. Her gargoyles are believable in the way they function and their background fits within the mythology and legends which Kurtz has employed.
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