Monday, October 15, 2018

Strong British "Father Anselm Thriller" from William Brodrick, THE SILENT ONES

Some British mysteries might get stranded on the other side of the Atlantic, if it weren't for the sturdy persistence of The Overlook Press, hauling them over "the pond." The newest to savor, with a US publication date of October 16, is THE SILENT ONES by William Brodrick. What an excellent read!

Brodrick won acclaim with his 1999 opening of the Father Anselm series, The Sixth Lamentaion, and took a Crime Writers' Assocaition (CWA) Golden Dagger Award for A Whispered Name. The newest in the series via Overlook, THE SILENT ONES, came out in 2015 in Britain -- alas for the 3-year wait! But now it's here ...

It's hard to write about The Church these days without confronting the specter of child sexual abuse. And that's what Father Anselm knows he'll have to look into when he's assigned to trace the missing Father Littlemore, a member of an order of monastics that is distant from his own Larkwood Priory community. He'll have to head for London and leave the treasured silence of the Priory, and leave his beehives. But an order is an order (double meaning intended), and sometimes silence must be sacrificed.

To Father Anselm's shock (and near despair), once the missing man is "located," he wants Father Anselm -- a former barrister himself -- for his legal representative. But Father Littlemore won't speak in his own defense. And the facts of the matter are far from clear:
R v. Littlemore  opened in Court Twelve at the Old Bailey on a Thursday in the first week of August. It was a warm day with clouds drifting carelessly across a cobalt sky. A crowd had gathered in the street behind a row of grey metal barriers. Police officers in fluorescent jackets stood on the pavement, keeping the entrance clear. Seeing the gathering as he approached on foot from Ludgate, Anselm lowered his gaze. For months he'd lived in dread of this moment. Now that it was upon him he wanted to turn around and go back to Larkwood; to deal with his bees and the other simple obligations of a quiet life. The clouds were drifting there, too. Bede's parting words rang hoarsely in his ears:

'Find out what really happened . . .'
Despite the "newsworthy" side of the proposed crime, THE SILENT ONES is actually a traditional mystery, well framed, salted with a slow accretion of clues, and paced with enough room to enjoy the atmospherics. Plus it tenderly probes the forms of affection and loyalty that grow within a monastic community -- as well as the frictions and sometimes cruel words.

Pick up a copy if you treasure the genre of English justice mysteries; if you enjoy peeking behind the scenes among clerics (Father Brown lovers, grab two copies); and if you value an author who can write of affection in a way that warms your heart and gets you ready for a better week ahead.

One small caution: As usual with Brodrick's books, the first few chapters can be a bit choppy (overworked, perhaps?). Slide on through and enjoy the rest of the book. I did.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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