William Brodrick, author of the Father Anselm mysteries, doesn’t shy away from tough questions. In The Day of the Lie, he tackled the multiple shades of gray in old communist regimes, and how secret police and prisoners might not be so different after all. In The Whispered Name, the subject was cowardice in wartime.
In The Discourtesy of Death, Brodrick considers mercy killing. Or is it assisted suicide? Or is it murder?
The prior of Larkwood Monastery, where Father Anselm lives and works, has decided that Father Anselm’s gift of detection needs to be shared, a “light in the darkness,” so to speak. Without his cooperation, Father Anselm has just been featured in a splashy Sunday newspaper story – about how a monk solves crimes. It results in the monastery receiving all kinds of communications seeking Father Anselm’s help.
Then an anonymous letter arrives. It suggests that a woman who had been paralyzed had not died of cancer but was actually murdered. And that’s the case Father Anselm is told to pursue. The woman’s husband, a well-known television personality, is the likely suspect. He’s due to be discharged from prison after throwing a brick through a store window that injured a boy. The couple’s young teenaged son has been living with his grandparents; the grandfather is a former British Army commando who was stationed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. And there’s the attending doctor, who signed the woman’s death certificate and would have known if it had been murder.
In short, there’s no lack of suspects. Father Anselm enlists the help of a former client from his law practice days whom he successfully defended twice for fraud, even though the man was likely guilty. Through all of the investigation, Anselm hopes the man will show remorse and make restitution.
But in a Father Anselm mystery, things are never what they appear to be. And Father Anselm knows far more than he lets on, even to his prior.
Brodrick was a friar in the Augustine order before he became a barrister and a writer. He’s written , with A Whispered Name winning the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in 2009. A seventh, The Silent Ones, is being published this month. He lives in France. (And the Gilbertine Order was a real order of monks but was disbanded by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.)
The Discourtesy of Death is a compelling mystery that forces the characters (and the reader) to seriously examine beliefs and notions of life, compassion, and mercy. No one, including the reader, is going to be let off easy.
Top photograph by Andrei Lazarev via . Used with permission.