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William X. Kienzle Books In Order

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Publication Order of Father Koesler Books

The Rosary Murders (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon
Death Wears a Red Hat (1980)Description / Buy at Amazon
Mind Over Murder (1981)Description / Buy at Amazon
Assault with Intent (1982)Description / Buy at Amazon
Shadow of Death (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon
Kill and Tell (1984)Description / Buy at Amazon
Sudden Death (1985)Description / Buy at Amazon
Deathbed (1986)Description / Buy at Amazon
Deadline for a Critic (1987)Description / Buy at Amazon
Marked For Murder (1988)Description / Buy at Amazon
Eminence (1989)Description / Buy at Amazon
Masquerade (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
Chameleon (1991)Description / Buy at Amazon
Body Count (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon
Dead Wrong (1993)Description / Buy at Amazon
Bishop as Pawn (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
Call No Man Father (1995)Description / Buy at Amazon
Requiem for Moses (1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Man Who Loved God (1997)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Greatest Evil (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
No Greater Love (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
Till Death (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Sacrifice (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Gathering (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon

William X. Kienzle is an American author best known for the Father Koesler Series, a series of highly popular mystery thrillers. Kienzle first started out as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church where he served for over two decades as a parish priest. Even as a priest, he was involved with writing as the editor in chief of the Michigan Catholic, the archdiocese’s newspaper. His work with the paper earned him a Catholic Press Association acknowledgment for excellence in editorial writing and a general excellence award in Journalism from the Michigan Knights of Columbus. He would leave the priesthood in 1974 after he became increasingly frustrated with canonical law that would not allow him to remarry divorcees. Kienzle’s first ever-published novel was the 1979 published “The Rosary Murders” that went on to become a huge fan favorite. After leaving the priesthood in 1974, William got married to Javan Herman Andrews, a veteran journalist working with the Detroit Free Press. Soon after, he got a job as the Editor in Chief at a Minneapolis newspaper, the MPLS Magazine. During his time working as editor at the magazine, Kienzle turned into a prolific writer, often penning one novel a year in his Father Koesler series. Over the course of about 20 years, he wrote 24 crime mystery novels in the series.

An important thing to note about Kienzle is that even as he was frustrated with some church policies and canon law, which eventually saw him quit the priesthood 1974, he remained a catholic until his death. After working for a short period with the MPLS magazine, he moved to Dallas Texas where he became the Center for Contemplative Studies Director at the University of Dallas. Unsurprisingly, his first novel “The Rosary Murders” was more of an attack on the canonical law of the Catholic Church. A priest finds himself bound by the policies of the confessional that makes it impossible for him to out a killer that has been murdering priests in his parish. The novel would be followed by several initial successes over the years that involved a range of supporting cast and a few main ones. Some of the most important characters in his novel include Father Bob, clerical malefactors from the church and outside it, the mafia, and an assortment of criminals who have to face up to ethical difficulties ocassioned by the rules of the Catholic Church. Since leaving the priesthood and a teaching career, Kienzle wrote a steady stream of novels until his death in 2001. “The Gathering”, which was published posthumously in 2002, was the twenty-fourth and last novel in the series. The series was eventually adapted into a movie with Donald Sutherland starring in the lead role of Father Bob in the 1987 film adaptation of the first novel in the series “The Rosary Murders”. Wiliam Kienzle co-wrote the screenplay with Fred Walton and Elmore Leonard. William Kienzle died of a heart attack on December 28 2001 in West Bloomfield, Michigan. His wife Javan Kienzle died on September 2015 of metastatic breast cancer.

Set in Detroit, Michigan, which is where the author grew up, the Father Koesler series of novels follow the life and times of Father Robert Koesler, a detective cum Catholic priest. Koesler is a chain-smoking personable sleuth that helps the police solve a variety of mysterious murders that occur in his parish. Given Kienzle’s background as a parish priest, many of the novels are written from the perspectives of a priest, especially his experiences with the church. As such, most of the novels are a critique of the canonical rules of the Catholic Church, in narratives that may be deemed to be half-amateur sleuth, and half police procedurals. Even as the novels are first of all thrillers, there is a deeper meaning to William Kienzle’s whodunits, which make them more of moral plays rather than your classic mystery. For instance, Father Koesler is a heavy drinker and smoker, and is the perfect example of the wide gulf not only between the ordinary people and the priests but also between priest and the nuns. The novels offer some great insights into the daily routines of nuns and priests, including a peek into the sacred rituals of the church, particularly the concept of confession. What is even more interesting is the authors take on differences in opinion among parishioners, nuns, and priest on issues of canon such as the rules of Vatican Two. All of these take place alongside thrilling narratives of journalists, cops, and Detroit clergymen having to deal with abortion, black magic, drug peddling prostitution, extortion, and decapitations.

“The Rosary Murders” is the first novel in the Father Koesler series of novels by William X. Kienzle. Set in Detroit Michigan it opens to the murder if an elderly priest killed on Ash Wednesday while waiting to die in a city hospital. A nun is found murdered in her bathtub barely two days later. It is soon a murder fest as nuns and priests are found killed left right and center. The common aspect of the deaths is that all of the victims are left clutching a rosary in their left hands. It is important to remember that the novel is set in the 70’s a time when Detroit was a city known for high crime rates and outrageous murder rate. Even then, the murders, which take place on Easter and Lent, look too similar they can be deemed anything but random. Soon the police department sets up a task force to investigate the murders. They also enlist the help of Father Koesler, an avid mystery fiction fan and the editor of the Detroit Catholic to assist in unraveling the mystery.

“Death Wears A Red Hat” is an extraordinary tale of morality and justice with an ecclesiastic twist. Father Koesler makes a comeback in the second novel of the series to find that an unknown assailant has been murdering the citizens of Detroit and replacing the heads of church statues with the decapitated heads of his victims. But in the seemingly gruesome and bizarre murders, the killings seem to have a method to them. Father Koesler is once again called upon by the police department heads, Lieutenant Ned Harris, and homicide inspector Walter Koznicki to consult on the case. In the meantime, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press have put their best men Pat Lennon and Joe Cox on the case. But as the vicious killer continues to pile up the bodies unabated, what once seemed an exciting chase turns into bewilderment and horror not only for the city’s residents, but also the cops, journalists and Father Koesler.

Book Series In Order » Characters » William X. Kienzle

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