To be published by Black Opal Books this year. Death of a Sacristan, is an historical mystery that tears away the veil of secrecy that covers slave owning by antebellum Catholics in the South–including Bishop Patrick Lynch, who owned dozens of slaves and reigned as prelate for both Carolinas for decades during and after the War of Northern Aggression. Barra researched Lynch when he was the senior staff writer for the Diocese of Charleston and wrote a profile of him for Catholic Heritage magazine. Most people, even most Catholics, do not realize that Catholics and Catholic institutions such as the Jesuit order owned slaves. The diocese kept Lynch under wraps for 150 years.
In the new book he is a sort of Nero Wolfe who interprets clues uncovered by the narrator, his aide Tom Dockery, a priest and former NYPD uniform. A wealthy volunteer sacristan is murdered in the cathedral and Dockery works to solve the mystery before Charleston devolves into civil war. Within that narrative framework, Dockery explores his own attitude toward slavery.
Lynch rationalized the institution on biblical grounds and explained his own reasons for opposing abolitionism so strongly that Horace Greeley labeled him The Rebel Bishop in the N.Y. Herald.
His arguments are not outlandish to Dockery — and will not be to the reader.
Coming out in 2018. Please check back for purchase details.