Even though this is not my favorite novel by Jane Haddam, it is still excellent. Jane Haddam writes not just a mystery novel; she writes as essay on philosophy in order to make her readers think about their own lives and the world they live in through stories about fictional characters.
Quoth The Raven (review passages)
Those were the days before he—or anyone else—realized that the man who murdered thirty young women with an ice pick and a cheese board wasn’t an anomaly, but the representative of a class. Gregor thought he had been on the job with the new department for five years before it hit him that that class was not only vast, but growing. Somehow or other, this society seemed to be breeding a prolific race of the morally dead.
“The mistake you’re making,” he told Tibor, “is the same one I made up until a couple of hours ago. People invest their lives in all sorts of things that may seem silly to you or me, but mostly what they invest them in is their own image of themselves. We construct identities like houses and then we live in them. If someone comes along and threatens to burn the house down, we react.”
Next to him, Father Tibor Kasparian trudged along with his hands wrapped into the folds of his cassock, looking infinitely tired. Gregor knew Tibor had been brought up among psychopaths—raised by them, really, except in the tight protective womb of his unshakably religious family—but he hadn’t expected Tibor to be taken like this by what had happened here. He thought he might have read Tibor’s psychology exactly backward, the way he had once tried to read words in a mirror when he was a boy and pretending to fight crimes with magic superpowers, like Spider Man. After all, what they were dealing with here was not a psychopath, but an ordinary human being who had invested too much in superficialities and too little in inner strength. It hadn’t occurred to Gregor that Tibor might find that worse than the prospect of a man who had decided to play out the fantasies of Stalin and Hitler in private life.
He put his hand on the priest’s shoulder and said,“Tibor? Are you all right?”
“I am fine, Krekor,” Tibor said. “I am thinking. You are very sure you have this set up exactly right?”
“I think so, Tibor, yes. I have it set up the only way I think it will work.”
“It seems like a very large chance, Krekor. You are counting on—”
“On guilt,” Gregor said simply.
“Yes. On guilt. But Krekor, I am not sure, in this case, if guilt applies. What you have shown me is something that takes much work, much concentration, much coldness to effect. It is not like hacking away at someone with an ax in a fit of rage. It is not—normal.”
“No, of course it is not normal.”
“Do you read G. K. Chesterton? He said once somewhere that in order for a man to break the fifth commandment he must first break the first. That the murderer’s problem is not with ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but with ‘I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.’ ”
“I’ll have to read Chesterton.”
“It seems like a paltry reason, Krekor. A little thing. For all this blood and pain and trouble.”
Passage 4 (with omissions marked by ellipsis)
“Krekor,” he said slowly, “I think there is something now I should have to tell you.”
“Sure. Tell me anything you want.”
“Yes, Krekor, I know. I can tell you anything I want. ...”
“Of course you didn’t. Good Lord, Tibor, what made you think I thought you capable of killing anyone?”
Father Tibor Kasparian sighed. “Krekor, Krekor. Before I came to Cavanaugh Street I had another life in another place among another kind of people. In that place, I was not only capable of killing a man, I was guilty of it. In fact, I killed two.”
But Father Tibor Kasparian was already halfway up the steps ...
Me: What a shocker! The character Father Tibor Kasparian is nearly a saint. Tibor, a murderer???