Monday 9 May 2022



Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A Catholic priest has been found half-naked and dead in a seedy motel room, with his tongue cut out. Ex-FBI profiler Robert Payne has been called in to investigate by his childhood friend Steve Gray, now a monsignor. With a fund-raising drive coming up, Steve wants to squelch a scandal. But all the signs point to unholy doings in the tightly knit parish.

Why did the pugnacious president of the Parish Board remove a gold earring from the scene of the crime? Was his beautiful blonde wife doing more than confessing to the profligate priest? And why was the dead priest hoarding newspaper stories about two other brutal murders? As Payne examines the evidence and pieces together the profile of a subtle and devious killer, it's clear that there will be hell to pay--with no end in sight...

Harlot's Moon is the third book in Ed Gorman's Robert Payne series after Blood Moon and Hawk Moon. It's one I listened to on Audible a couple of months ago and while I'm struggling to recall lots of the details of the book, I do know I enjoyed it. 

I think it was probably more a case of enjoying time in the company of the lead character, Robert Payne as opposed to the case he ends up working. There's a decent blend of personal and professional which keeps me on-board without feeling like I'm getting saturated by filler. In his personal life there is friction with his girlfriend, Felice over his behaviour towards his estranged step-father, Vic. Vic is dying and has made attempts to reconcile with Robert before he passes. Payne for his part is not the forgiving type, though he does seem unusually harsh in his attitude to the man who did his best to raise him and care for his mother. By the end they have reached an understanding which pleased me.

I thought of all those years I'd hated him, seen him as a buffoon who'd stolen my family life.
But I didn't see him as that any more. I didn't like him and never would. But I saw his decency now and his sadness.

Payne is a former FBI profiler who gets involved in the murder of a Catholic priest after a call from a friend who is affiliated with the church. Payne does his thing while the police, led by Detective Judy Holloway does hers. Payne's friend is more concerned with the fallout to the church from a public scandal. The dead priest seems to have had trouble sticking to his vow of celibacy, having taken advantage of his position numerous times to seduce vulnerable women seeking spiritual councelling. 

It's an interesting book, as one murder eventually turns into four, not all of them with any obvious connection to the first. I enjoyed getting from A to B to C etc before eventually we get to the bottom of the case. I'm not a massive fan of the multiple murder scenario, but was happy to go with it on this occasion. When I do read murder mysteries, my preference is for it is as a single event with the whole of the book devoted to the pursuit and investigation by the police or PI type and the attempts at evasion by the culprit rather than the mad man with a plan or vision, hearing voices from his biscuit tin/toilet bowl/pet goldfish telling him to kill X, Y and Z. That's maybe just me though.

I've enjoyed a few Ed Gorman books in the past and I have a few more in the Audible library yet that I'll get around to eventually. Murder on the Aisle, Murder in the Wings, Nightmare Child and Cast in Dark Waters (with Tom Piccirilli) are my previous encounters in addition to the earlier two Moon books - Blood and Hawk.   

3.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Published - 1997
Page count - 256 (6 hrs 33 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible


  1. Payne does sound like an interesting character, Col. And I know just what you mean about the right mix of personal and professional when it comes to main characters. It sounds as though there are some church politics mixed up with this story, too, and that can be interesting. I'm glad you found some things to like about this one.

    1. Margot it takes real skill to balance the right amount of personal detail with the story and Gorman does it well. I liked the church element which is a kind of constant throughout the tale, but maybe less controversial as it progresses.

  2. I have this book but not the ones before it in the series. Haven't decided whether to skip those or not.

    1. If time allows I'd suggest read them. It's a series I'm enjoying overall.