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The Sixth Lamentation

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Larkwood Priory, Suffolk, 1995: Following his afternoon confessions, Father Anselm is stopped by an old man. What, he is asked, should a man do when the world has turned against him? Anselm's response--claim sanctuary--is to have greater resonance than he could ever have imagined, for the man returns demanding the protection of the Church. He is Eduard Schwermann, a suspected Nazi war criminal. Meanwhile, with her life running out, Agnes Aubret unburdens a secret to her granddaughter Lucy. Fifty years earlier Agnes lived in occupied Paris and risked her life to smuggle Jewish children to safety until her group was exposed by an SS officer: Eduard Schwermann. As Father Anselm struggles to discover the truth about Schwermann's history and Lucy delves ever deeper into her grandmother's past, their investigations dovetail to reveal a remarkable story, in which two seemingly unconnected lives shockingly converge. William Brodrick is a master of crisp historical re-creation, precision plotting, and morally complex characterization. From Publishers Weekly. Broderick's masterful first novel is characterized by the publisher as a "literary thriller," as though it needed that label to attract and galvanize buyers. But the book defies genre pigeonholing; it is simply storytelling at its finest. Amid the rush and tumble of a stirring plot, the author's eloquent prose brings power to the tangled and tragic history on which the story is based. After decades in hiding, Eduard Schwermann, a suspected Nazi war criminal, claims sanctuary at Larkwood Priory, a modern-day monastery in the English countryside. Ordered to investigate the 50-year-old mystery of Schwermann's crime, Father Anselm, an ex-lawyer turned monk, is soon immersed in the murky history of the Nazi occupation of Paris and the deportation of French Jews to the death camps. He researches the life of a heroic French resistance fighter and attempts to answer questions about treachery, both modern and historical. In a second narrative thread, the aging Agnes Embleton sees a wartime-era picture of Schwermann on television and is cast back to occupied Paris and her role in the Round Table, a group of students who attempted to rescue thousands of Jewish children. Agnes suffers from a degenerative ailment called motor neuron disease and depends on her 25-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, for physical assistance. Lucy has also become a repository of the aging woman's memories. Nothing is as it seems, and the truth is revealed layer by layer as the past gives up its secrets to the persistent Father Anselm and the devoted Lucy. Even in the smallest moments, Broderick's writing is beautiful: "They walked on, the light swiftly thinning, the mad swooping of distant birds suddenly ended, leaving the sky bare, unscored." The complex nature of the plot demands concentration, but the effort pays off handsomely as one is swept into this heartrending story. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. From Booklist. *Starred Review* This first-time novelist was an Augustinian friar before becoming a barrister; his chief protagonist, Father Anselm, was a barrister before becoming a monk. The two vocations offer fitting keys--logic and compassion--to unlock the doors of this labyrinthine tale. A suspected Nazi war criminal, Eduard Schwermann, asks for sanctuary at Anselm's home, Larkwood Priory. When the Vatican asks Anselm to investigate on its behalf, Anselm finds reason to suspect the church itself may have been complicit in Schwermann's long-ago escape to England. In nearby London, dying Holocaust survivor Agnes Aubret shares a secret with her granddaughter, Lucy: Agnes was part of a French Resistance ring broken by Schwermann. Schwermann's trial begins with both Anselm and Lucy still hurrying to make sense of the past. Sticky strands of deceit, loss, and betrayal bind together a large cast of characters, and untangling them is both difficult and painful. Though Brodrick builds tension slowly (he's better at foreshadowing than planting clues), he's mapped his plot masterfully, and his approach to the thorny issues of justice and punishment is thoughtful and complex. Keir Graff. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved