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Many claim that reading fiction can be a reliable, if temporary, escape from daily problems. For those St. Louisans whose troubles include lingering disappointment over the cancelled St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dogtown, a new novel by Wm. Stage may be just the diversion they need.

“St. Francis of Dogtown” is a crime novel featuring Francis X. Lenihan, a process server who accidentally gets mixed up in a murder investigation. Using the creativity and skills sharpened by years of serving papers to people who often do not want to be found, Lenihan begins some independent detective work with a little help from his friends.

Francis Lenihan’s workday is nothing like that of the average 9-to-5 office worker. He works seven days a week, whenever he will be most likely to find the person he is serving. His work uniform is cargo shorts and a t-shirt. His car, which serves as his mobile office, has a supply of reading material for stakeout scenarios, and a beer cooler for refreshment on those jobs that take him a little further out of town.

Regardless of what each day brings, Francis likes to finish his work by mid-afternoon and head to his beloved Murphy’s Bar, located a short distance from his apartment in Dogtown. “The place was a social club for fools and misfits and nutjobs and blowhards and he was proud to be a part of it.” There Francis can either be quiet and solitary or regale his friends with stories old and new. He will occasionally be asked to sing an Irish ballad for the whole assembly.

Francis becomes a person of interest in a murder investigation after he leaves his business card on the door of a murdered woman. This storyline features almost cartoonishly evil villains and some damsel-in-distress stereotypes. But the crime and the detective work are simply a backdrop for the real story of a man who loves his neighborhood.

The novel closes with Francis enjoying the Dogtown St. Patrick’s Day parade and thinking that he was in love. “Not with a person but with an idea, a grand and crazy idea with a name attached: Dogtown.”