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Quite all right. I just hope I can be of help. This is a tragic business.

We'll take as little of your time as possible. Perhaps we should begin with the telephone call.

You're right there, said D'Agosta with feeling. "Those who can't do, teach, and those who can't teach, critique."

I see, murmured Pendergast.

He was very happily married. He adored his wife. And then, quite abruptly, she left him, ran off with another man. To say that Grove was devastated is not saying enough. He was destroyed. And he focused his anger on God.

Jeremy Grove and I go way back. We met at Columbia as students many years ago. I went on to the priesthood, and he went to Florence to study art. In those days, we were both-well, I wouldn't call us religious in the usual sense of the word. We were both spirituallyintrigued . We used to argue to all hours of the morning about questions of faith, epistemology, the nature of good and evil, and so forth. I went on to study theology at Mount St. Mary's. We continued our friendship, and a few years later I officiated over Grove's marriage.

Why did he call you?

Pleased to make your acquaintance. The priest crushed his hand in greeting.This is no gentle lamb of God, thought D'Agosta. He eased down in the chair, shifting, trying hard to get comfortable. He failed. The room, despite the sunny day outside, felt cold and damp. God, he would never make a good monk.

We'll take as little of your time as possible. Perhaps we should begin with the telephone call.

Sergeant D'Agosta is a writer of mysteries, explained Pendergast.

Grove felt betrayed by God. He became . . . well, you certainly couldn't call him an atheist or an agnostic. Rather, he picked a fight with God. He deliberately embarked on a life of sin and violence against God, which in reality was a life of violence against his own higher self. He became an art critic. Criticism is a profession which allows one a certain license to be vicious outside the bounds of normal civilized behavior. One would never tell another person in private that his painting was a revolting piece of trash, but the critic thinks nothing of making the same pronouncement to the world as if he were performing a high moral duty. There is no profession more ignoble than that of the critic-except perhaps that of the physician presiding at an execution.

Angels of Purgatoryis his latest.

That's a complicated question requiring a long answer.

I see, murmured Pendergast.

We'll take as little of your time as possible. Perhaps we should begin with the telephone call.

D'Agosta mumbled his thanks. For the second time that day, he found himself feeling embarrassed. He would have to talk to Pendergast about sounding off about his abortive writing career.

I see, murmured Pendergast.

Pendergast nodded at him to proceed.

You're right there, said D'Agosta with feeling. "Those who can't do, teach, and those who can't teach, critique."

Is that so I love detective stories. Give me a title.

Why did he call you?

Father Cappi laughed. "Very true, Sergeant D'Agosta."

An interesting story, Sergeant. He bought a painting at an auction at Sotheby's that was billed as being by a late follower of Raphael. Grove was able to prove it as the hand of the master himself, turned around and sold it for thirty million dollars to the Met.

Grove felt betrayed by God. He became . . . well, you certainly couldn't call him an atheist or an agnostic. Rather, he picked a fight with God. He deliberately embarked on a life of sin and violence against God, which in reality was a life of violence against his own higher self. He became an art critic. Criticism is a profession which allows one a certain license to be vicious outside the bounds of normal civilized behavior. One would never tell another person in private that his painting was a revolting piece of trash, but the critic thinks nothing of making the same pronouncement to the world as if he were performing a high moral duty. There is no profession more ignoble than that of the critic-except perhaps that of the physician presiding at an execution.

I sincerely apologize for this intrusion, said Pendergast.

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