When police detective Jimmy Stewart and private detective Phil Knight
play an early round of golf on the old Burke course at Notre Dame
University, their game is cut short by the discovery of a corpse on the
sixth hole. Mortimer Sadler has died within sight of the
university residence which he funded. The cause of death is
ingestion of deadly nightshade. Now Stewart must determine
whether Sadler was murdered, committed suicide, or accidentally killed
himself in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing situation.
Phil Knight is asked to represent the university in the case, which
brings his brother, Professor Roger Knight, into the
investigation. Roger brings to the investigation some personal
insight into the family of the dead man and the family of the chief
suspect, the beautiful alumna Maureen O’Kelly.
By all accounts, Mortimer Sadler was not the most lovable of
characters. His older brother had reason to resent him in the
family business, as did his brother’s son, Paul. The evening
before the murder, one of Sadler’s friends had a heated argument with
him. Alumni and old members of the university resented
construction of the student residence which reduced the Burke golf
course from eighteen holes to nine, a building which Sadler
funded. Women, particularly feminists like Maureen O’Kelly,
disliked the old chauvinist, who once campaigned vigorously to have
women excluded from Notre Dame.
In trying to find the killer - if this was indeed murder - Roger Knight
is torn by his loyalty to truth and the natural desire not to see
people he knows hurt, particularly his very bright student Francie
O’Kelly and her close friend Paul Sadler. Roger is as concerned
about the spiritual welfare of the deceased and possible killer as he
is about solving the crime, if crime there was.
Green Thumb is both an entertaining mystery and an amusing and
affectionate look at Notre Dame University from the inside.
McInerny plays fair with the reader by providing all the clues
necessary to solve the puzzle, including Roger Knight’s insights into
their motivations and personalities, which are key to its resolution.