Dermot Sparhawk, a former all-American football star at Boston College, returns in Beyond the Bridge, the prequel to Tom MacDonald's award-winning debut novel, The Charlestown Connection. In Beyond the Bridge, Sparhawk, a struggling alcoholic, agrees to help find the killer of an accused pedophile priest. When two more priests are slain in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, it becomes evident that it is the work of a sadistic serial killer who crucifies his prey after killing them. Sparhawk blazes an unconventional trail to the killer that puts him at odds with the very people he is trying to help and initiates a turf war with law enforcement. He gathers a cadre of unlikely allies, including a parish priest, a police lab criminalist, the district attorney, and a state police lieutenant who help to rebuff attempts to derail him from the case. Then, with the help of his Micmac Indian cousin and his paraplegic tenant and former Boston College teammate, Sparhawk bulldozes his way to the truth, while putting his own life at risk.
Someone is crucifying Boston area priests in MacDonald's unsuspenseful prequel to his promising debut, 2011's The Charlestown Connection. Blackie Barboza, the brother of one of the victims, Fr. Netto Barboza, asks Dermot Sparhawk, who struggles with the bottle but has been occupying himself productively by operating a church food pantry, to look into Netto's murder. Blackie also wants Sparhawk to posthumously exonerate his sibling from allegations of child molestation. The bishop soon charges Sparhawk with determining how the victims are linked. Too often, other characters tell Sparhawk what a good job he's doing, even though the reader may feel the praise is overblown. Some infelicitous prose (e.g., "Her trim body and Irish face moved across the room with grace") and improbable developments, such as the Suffolk County DA asking in confidence for novice Sparhawk's assistance, don't help.