The Sixth Lamentation

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

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. (July 14) Forecast: A natural handsell to fans of both thrillers and plot-driven literary fiction, Broderick's novel may also benefit from his intriguing life story: he was an Augustinian friar before leaving the order to become a lawyer, and the events of the novel are loosely based on the experiences of his mother during the war. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Father Anselm has a problem: the elderly man who has claimed sanctuary at his church is a suspected Nazi war criminal. The publisher has powerful convictions about this first novel, penned by an Augustinian friar turned barrister. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A suspected Nazi fugitive, a collaborator, veterans of the French Resistance, plus a host of funky monks in a nicely, at times wonderfully, written literary thriller remarkably devoid of stereotypes. Agnes Aubret, former member of the Round Table-an underground group of young people who 50 years earlier spirited Jewish children out of Paris during the German occupation-is diagnosed with a rapidly progressing fatal disease. She has accepted her imminent death. But that peaceful trip to the grave is interrupted when secrets related to the events that defined her life start emerging in the press. A suspected fugitive Nazi war criminal thought to have been involved in the death camp deportations from Paris gets asylum at an English monastery. Neither the Vatican nor the British Home Office is appropriately outraged, and buried truths start popping up like coffins in a flooded cemetery as Father Anselm, a barrister-turned-monk, and young relatives of the apparent good guys and bad guys dig. Rather than amateur detectives out to settle an inherited grudge, they seem genuinely driven to know history. Their elders, having struggled with the pieces of the period in question, know there will be no history without judgment. The converging paths will meet in court. Character and place are sketched one casual but well-chosen line at a time. This attention to detail makes the rather glacial pace for a thriller acceptable; there's plenty to absorb, even at that pace. First-novelist Brodrick, himself a former Augustinian friar, takes the high road, avoiding a minefield of potential clichés and stereotypes. Equally rotten with potential for black-and-white moralizing, the dominant moral tone is as gray asa London winter, and the reader is carried along as much by an interest in the people as in answers to the questions raised about levels of guilt. The storyline is intricate enough to make one squint at times, but it's never contrived for the sake of cleverness or cheapened merely to lead the reader astray. A slo-mo thriller. Literary, too. Agent: Emma Parry/Carlisle and Company
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142004623
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/4/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 503,270
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

William Brodrick was a Franciscan friar before leaving the order to become a practicing barrister.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

"Sanctuary."

"My bottom!"

"Honestly."

The Prior, Father Andrew, was fond of diluting harsher well-known expressions for monastic use, but the sentiment remained largely the same. He was an unconverted Glaswegian tamed by excessive education, but shades of the street fighter were apt to break out when grappling with the more unusual community problems.

"It was abolished ages ago. He can't be serious."

"Well, he is," said Anselm.

"When did he come out with that one?"

"This morning, when Wilf asked him to leave."

The Prior scowled. "I suppose he declined to oblige?"

"Yes. And he told Wilf there's nowhere he can go."

The two monks were sitting on a wooden bench on the south transept lawn of the Old Abbey ruin. It was Anselm's favourite spot at Larkwood. Facing them, on the South Walk cloister wall, were the remnants of the night stairs from the now vanished dorter. He liked to sit here and muse upon his thirteenth-century ancestors, cowled and silent, making their way down for the night hours. The lawn, eaten by moss, spread away, undulating towards the enclosure fencing and, beyond that, to the bluebell path which led to the convent. It was a sharp morning. The Prior had just come back from a trip to London, having managed to miss the main item on all news bulletins. He'd returned home to find a gaggle of reporters and television crews camped on his doorstep.

"Give it to me again, in order," said the Prior. He always insisted upon accurate chronologies.

"The story broke in a local newspaper of all places. By the time the nationals had got to his home he was here, claiming the protection of the Church."

"What did Wilf say?"

"Words to the effect that the police wouldn't pay any heed to Clement III."

"Who was Clement III?"

"The Pope who granted the Order the right of sanctuary."

"Trust Wilf to know that." Disconcerted, he added, "How did you know?"

"I had to ask as well."

"That's all right then." He returned to his mental listing. "Go on, then what?"

"Wilf rang the police. The first I knew about anything was when the media were at the gates. I had a few words with them, batting back daft questions."

Father Andrew examined his nails, flicking his thumb upon each finger. "But why claim sanctuary? Where did he get the idea from?"

Anselm shifted uncomfortably. He would answer that question at the right moment, not now. It was one of the first lessons Anselm had learnt after he'd placed himself subject to Holy Obedience: there's a time and a place for honesty, and it is the privilege of the servant to choose the moment of abasement with his master.

The Prior stood and paced the ground, his arms concealed beneath his scapular. He said, "We are on the two horns of one dilemma."

"Indeed."

They looked at each other, silently acknowledging the delicacy of the situation. The Prior spoke for them both:

"If he goes, there'll be international coverage of an old man protesting his innocence being handed over to the police; if he stays, we'll be damned for supporting a Nazi. Either way, to lapse into the vernacular, we're shafted."

"Succinctly put."

The Prior leaned on a sill beneath an open arcade in the south transept wall, reflectively brushing loose lichen with the back of his hand. Anselm joined him.

"Father, I think one horn is shorter than the other and more comfortably straddled."

"Go on."

"The sooner he leaves the better. Otherwise we risk protracted public fascination with why he came here in the first place."

By a tilt of the head the Prior drew Anselm away, leading him towards the stile gate and the bluebell path. "I'm going to find out what the sisters think. They had a Chapter this morning."

As they walked through the grass, wet with dew, Anselm pursued his point. "If he's forced to go now, any uproar will be short-lived. And there is an explanation we can give in the future if we get hammered for throwing an innocent man onto the street."

"Which is?"

"This is a monastery, not a remand home for the elderly." Anselm was pleased with the phrase. It was pithy and rounded: a good sound bite...prepared earlier.

The Prior nodded, mildly unimpressed. Anselm persevered, eyeing the Prior as he'd often eyed judges in another life when trying to read their minds.

"The alternative is the other, longer horn. If he moves in, and that's what it will amount to, we're in trouble. There could be a trial." Anselm paused. "Nothing we say will convince any victims that we're not on his side."

They reached the stile and the Prior climbed over onto the path, gathering his black habit under one arm, the white scapular thrown over one shoulder. Anselm sensed him drifting away, chasing private thoughts. "We should find out more tomorrow night. Detective Superintendent Milby's coming at six. I'd like you and Wilf to be there. Then we'll have a Special Chapter. Let everyone know, will you?"

"Yes, of course."

Anselm watched Father Prior disappear along the path, across a haze of blue and purple, his habit swaying in the breeze, his head bowed.

Anselm had met Detective Superintendent Milby several times in the past. In those days Milby had been a foot soldier with the drugs squad. He had long hair and dressed in jeans, but still managed to look like a policeman. Anselm had been a hack at the London Bar and their meetings had been limited to the pro-forma cross-examination about stitching up and excessive violence. Like all policemen familiar with the courts, Milby had taken it in his stride. That was well over ten years ago, and they'd both moved on since then.

Leaning against the stile gate, Anselm could almost smell the heavy scent of floor wax from his old chambers, and hear again the raucous laughter of competing voices in the coffee room. He smiled to himself, winsomely.

When Anselm left the Bar it caused a minor sensation, not least because it was such a wonderful Robing Room yarn. Since it was endemic to the profession to treat such things with private gravity and public levity, Anselm only heard the lowered voices of shared empathy: "Tell me, old son, is it true? You're off to a monastery? I can say this to you, but we've all got secret longings. The job's not everything..."

Anselm had knocked up ten years' call but, unknown to his colleagues, had never fully settled into harness. There was a restlessness that started to grow shortly after he became a tenant. Imperceptibly, he began to feel out of place, as if in a foreign land. There was another language, rarely spoken, and he wanted to learn it. Determined attempts to live a "normal" life as a professional man floundered at regular but unpredictable intervals. He could be waiting for a taxi or heading off to court, doing anything ordinary, and he would suddenly feel curiously alienated from his surroundings. It was a sort of homesickness, usually mild, and occasionally acute. He later called these attacks by stealth "promptings." All Anselm knew at the time was that they were vaguely religious in origin. He responded by purchasing various translations of the Bible and books on prayer, as if the answer to the puzzle lay somewhere between the pages. On one occasion he left a bookshop having ordered a thirty-eight-volume edition of the Early Church Fathers. They remained as they came, in three cardboard boxes strapped with tape and stacked in the corner of his living room, and used as an inelegant resting place for coffee-cups and take-away detritus. Anselm would then recover, and continue his life at the Bar until ambushed by another God-ward impulse. It was a sort of guerrilla war for which he was always unprepared and ill-equipped. And all the while his book collection became larger, more comprehensive, and unread. Eventually he stopped buying books. He realised one day whilst looking through a wide-angle lens that he wanted to become a monk.

It was a slightly odd experience. On leaving the Court of Appeal one late November afternoon, he was stopped in his tracks by a Chinese tourist who never ceased to smile. Several gesticulations later Anselm stood beneath the portal arch of the Royal Courts of Justice looking into the camera of a total stranger.

Suddenly he felt the urge to put the record straight, to say, "Look, you're mistaken. I'm not who or what you think I am; I'm a fraud." This happy man from a far away place had pushed an internal door ajar and Anselm knew at once what was on the other side. He set off down the steps with incomprehensible protestations ringing in his ears-from himself...and from the tourist who'd inadvertently nudged him away from the Bar. Taking the bus to Victoria, Anselm walked past the bookshop and into Westminster Cathedral, where he sat down beneath the dark interlocking bricks of the nave, and prayed. It was to be the only moment of near certainty in Anselm's subsequent religious life. The jostling between doubt and perseverance was to come later. But at that time he understood, at last, what the underlying problem had been. It had been Larkwood Priory all along.

 

"Rich with medieval and biblical allusion, The 6th Lamentation is an intricate mystery of both the mind and soul.... [Brodrick] has written an engrossing novel in which appearances are disastrously deceptive and the sins of the father painfully come to bear on the sons (and daughters)." —USA Today

   

CHAPTER ONE

"Sanctuary."

"My bottom!"

"Honestly."

The Prior, Father Andrew, was fond of diluting harsher well-known expressions for monastic use, but the sentiment remained largely the same. He was an unconverted Glaswegian tamed by excessive education, but shades of the street fighter were apt to break out when grappling with the more unusual community problems.

"It was abolished ages ago. He can't be serious."

"Well, he is," said Anselm.

"When did he come out with that one?"

"This morning, when Wilf asked him to leave."

The Prior scowled. "I suppose he declined to oblige?"

"Yes. And he told Wilf there's nowhere he can go."

The two monks were sitting on a wooden bench on the south transept lawn of the Old Abbey ruin. It was Anselm's favourite spot at Larkwood. Facing them, on the South Walk cloister wall, were the remnants of the night stairs from the now vanished dorter. He liked to sit here and muse upon his thirteenth-century ancestors, cowled and silent, making their way down for the night hours. The lawn, eaten by moss, spread away, undulating towards the enclosure fencing and, beyond that, to the bluebell path which led to the convent. It was a sharp morning. The Prior had just come back from a trip to London, having managed to miss the main item on all news bulletins. He'd returned home to find a gaggle of reporters and television crews camped on his doorstep.

"Give it to me again, in order," said the Prior. He always insisted upon accurate chronologies.

"The story broke in a local newspaper of all places. By the time the nationals had got to his home he was here, claiming the protection of the Church."

"What did Wilf say?"

"Words to the effect that the police wouldn't pay any heed to Clement III."

"Who was Clement III?"

"The Pope who granted the Order the right of sanctuary."

"Trust Wilf to know that." Disconcerted, he added, "How did you know?"

"I had to ask as well."

"That's all right then." He returned to his mental listing. "Go on, then what?"

"Wilf rang the police. The first I knew about anything was when the media were at the gates. I had a few words with them, batting back daft questions."

Father Andrew examined his nails, flicking his thumb upon each finger. "But why claim sanctuary? Where did he get the idea from?"

Anselm shifted uncomfortably. He would answer that question at the right moment, not now. It was one of the first lessons Anselm had learnt after he'd placed himself subject to Holy Obedience: there's a time and a place for honesty, and it is the privilege of the servant to choose the moment of abasement with his master.

The Prior stood and paced the ground, his arms concealed beneath his scapular. He said, "We are on the two horns of one dilemma."

"Indeed."

They looked at each other, silently acknowledging the delicacy of the situation. The Prior spoke for them both:

"If he goes, there'll be international coverage of an old man protesting his innocence being handed over to the police; if he stays, we'll be damned for supporting a Nazi. Either way, to lapse into the vernacular, we're shafted."

"Succinctly put."

The Prior leaned on a sill beneath an open arcade in the south transept wall, reflectively brushing loose lichen with the back of his hand. Anselm joined him.

"Father, I think one horn is shorter than the other and more comfortably straddled."

"Go on."

"The sooner he leaves the better. Otherwise we risk protracted public fascination with why he came here in the first place."

By a tilt of the head the Prior drew Anselm away, leading him towards the stile gate and the bluebell path. "I'm going to find out what the sisters think. They had a Chapter this morning."

As they walked through the grass, wet with dew, Anselm pursued his point. "If he's forced to go now, any uproar will be short-lived. And there is an explanation we can give in the future if we get hammered for throwing an innocent man onto the street."

"Which is?"

"This is a monastery, not a remand home for the elderly." Anselm was pleased with the phrase. It was pithy and rounded: a good sound bite...prepared earlier.

The Prior nodded, mildly unimpressed. Anselm persevered, eyeing the Prior as he'd often eyed judges in another life when trying to read their minds.

"The alternative is the other, longer horn. If he moves in, and that's what it will amount to, we're in trouble. There could be a trial." Anselm paused. "Nothing we say will convince any victims that we're not on his side."

They reached the stile and the Prior climbed over onto the path, gathering his black habit under one arm, the white scapular thrown over one shoulder. Anselm sensed him drifting away, chasing private thoughts. "We should find out more tomorrow night. Detective Superintendent Milby's coming at six. I'd like you and Wilf to be there. Then we'll have a Special Chapter. Let everyone know, will you?"

"Yes, of course."

Anselm watched Father Prior disappear along the path, across a haze of blue and purple, his habit swaying in the breeze, his head bowed.

Anselm had met Detective Superintendent Milby several times in the past. In those days Milby had been a foot soldier with the drugs squad. He had long hair and dressed in jeans, but still managed to look like a policeman. Anselm had been a hack at the London Bar and their meetings had been limited to the pro-forma cross-examination about stitching up and excessive violence. Like all policemen familiar with the courts, Milby had taken it in his stride. That was well over ten years ago, and they'd both moved on since then.

Leaning against the stile gate, Anselm could almost smell the heavy scent of floor wax from his old chambers, and hear again the raucous laughter of competing voices in the coffee room. He smiled to himself, winsomely.

When Anselm left the Bar it caused a minor sensation, not least because it was such a wonderful Robing Room yarn. Since it was endemic to the profession to treat such things with private gravity and public levity, Anselm only heard the lowered voices of shared empathy: "Tell me, old son, is it true? You're off to a monastery? I can say this to you, but we've all got secret longings. The job's not everything..."

Anselm had knocked up ten years' call but, unknown to his colleagues, had never fully settled into harness. There was a restlessness that started to grow shortly after he became a tenant. Imperceptibly, he began to feel out of place, as if in a foreign land. There was another language, rarely spoken, and he wanted to learn it. Determined attempts to live a "normal" life as a professional man floundered at regular but unpredictable intervals. He could be waiting for a taxi or heading off to court, doing anything ordinary, and he would suddenly feel curiously alienated from his surroundings. It was a sort of homesickness, usually mild, and occasionally acute. He later called these attacks by stealth "promptings." All Anselm knew at the time was that they were vaguely religious in origin. He responded by purchasing various translations of the Bible and books on prayer, as if the answer to the puzzle lay somewhere between the pages. On one occasion he left a bookshop having ordered a thirty-eight-volume edition of the Early Church Fathers. They remained as they came, in three cardboard boxes strapped with tape and stacked in the corner of his living room, and used as an inelegant resting place for coffee-cups and take-away detritus. Anselm would then recover, and continue his life at the Bar until ambushed by another God-ward impulse. It was a sort of guerrilla war for which he was always unprepared and ill-equipped. And all the while his book collection became larger, more comprehensive, and unread. Eventually he stopped buying books. He realised one day whilst looking through a wide-angle lens that he wanted to become a monk.

It was a slightly odd experience. On leaving the Court of Appeal one late November afternoon, he was stopped in his tracks by a Chinese tourist who never ceased to smile. Several gesticulations later Anselm stood beneath the portal arch of the Royal Courts of Justice looking into the camera of a total stranger.

Suddenly he felt the urge to put the record straight, to say, "Look, you're mistaken. I'm not who or what you think I am; I'm a fraud." This happy man from a far away place had pushed an internal door ajar and Anselm knew at once what was on the other side. He set off down the steps with incomprehensible protestations ringing in his ears-from himself...and from the tourist who'd inadvertently nudged him away from the Bar. Taking the bus to Victoria, Anselm walked past the bookshop and into Westminster Cathedral, where he sat down beneath the dark interlocking bricks of the nave, and prayed. It was to be the only moment of near certainty in Anselm's subsequent religious life. The jostling between doubt and perseverance was to come later. But at that time he understood, at last, what the underlying problem had been. It had been Larkwood Priory all along.

 

"Rich with medieval and biblical allusion, The 6th Lamentation is an intricate mystery of both the mind and soul.... [Brodrick] has written an engrossing novel in which appearances are disastrously deceptive and the sins of the father painfully come to bear on the sons (and daughters)." —USA Today

           

Larkwood Priory, England: 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. But the answer sets off more trouble than he ever could have imagined when the man returns, demanding the protection of the Church. He is Eduard Schwermann, a suspected Nazi war criminal.

Agnes Aubret has unburdened a secret to her granddaughter Lucy. Fifty years earlier, Agnes was in occupied Paris, risking her life to smuggle Jewish children to safety—until her group was exposed by an SS officer: Eduard Schwermann.

Not only has the Church granted Schwermann sanctuary before; in 1944 it helped him escape from France to begin a new life in Britain. As Anselm attempts to find out why and as Lucy delves deeper into her grandmother's past, their investigations dovetail to form a remarkable story.
 
William Brodrick makes a dazzling debut in this literary thriller where two seemingly unconnected lives gradually, shockingly converge. Brodrick, himself a former Augustinian friar, is a master of precision plotting, morally complex characterization, and crisp historical re-creation. In Father Anselm, Brodrick has crafted a unique and compelling hero. Taut and completely compelling, The 6th Lamentation promises to be the literary thriller discovery of the season.

   

CHAPTER ONE

"Sanctuary."

"My bottom!"

"Honestly."

The Prior, Father Andrew, was fond of diluting harsher well-known expressions for monastic use, but the sentiment remained largely the same. He was an unconverted Glaswegian tamed by excessive education, but shades of the street fighter were apt to break out when grappling with the more unusual community problems.

"It was abolished ages ago. He can't be serious."

"Well, he is," said Anselm.

"When did he come out with that one?"

"This morning, when Wilf asked him to leave."

The Prior scowled. "I suppose he declined to oblige?"

"Yes. And he told Wilf there's nowhere he can go."

The two monks were sitting on a wooden bench on the south transept lawn of the Old Abbey ruin. It was Anselm's favourite spot at Larkwood. Facing them, on the South Walk cloister wall, were the remnants of the night stairs from the now vanished dorter. He liked to sit here and muse upon his thirteenth-century ancestors, cowled and silent, making their way down for the night hours. The lawn, eaten by moss, spread away, undulating towards the enclosure fencing and, beyond that, to the bluebell path which led to the convent. It was a sharp morning. The Prior had just come back from a trip to London, having managed to miss the main item on all news bulletins. He'd returned home to find a gaggle of reporters and television crews camped on his doorstep.

"Give it to me again, in order," said the Prior. He always insisted upon accurate chronologies.

"The story broke in a local newspaper of all places. By the time the nationals had got to his home he was here, claiming the protection of the Church."

"What did Wilf say?"

"Words to the effect that the police wouldn't pay any heed to Clement III."

"Who was Clement III?"

"The Pope who granted the Order the right of sanctuary."

"Trust Wilf to know that." Disconcerted, he added, "How did you know?"

"I had to ask as well."

"That's all right then." He returned to his mental listing. "Go on, then what?"

"Wilf rang the police. The first I knew about anything was when the media were at the gates. I had a few words with them, batting back daft questions."

Father Andrew examined his nails, flicking his thumb upon each finger. "But why claim sanctuary? Where did he get the idea from?"

Anselm shifted uncomfortably. He would answer that question at the right moment, not now. It was one of the first lessons Anselm had learnt after he'd placed himself subject to Holy Obedience: there's a time and a place for honesty, and it is the privilege of the servant to choose the moment of abasement with his master.

The Prior stood and paced the ground, his arms concealed beneath his scapular. He said, "We are on the two horns of one dilemma."

"Indeed."

They looked at each other, silently acknowledging the delicacy of the situation. The Prior spoke for them both:

"If he goes, there'll be international coverage of an old man protesting his innocence being handed over to the police; if he stays, we'll be damned for supporting a Nazi. Either way, to lapse into the vernacular, we're shafted."

"Succinctly put."

The Prior leaned on a sill beneath an open arcade in the south transept wall, reflectively brushing loose lichen with the back of his hand. Anselm joined him.

"Father, I think one horn is shorter than the other and more comfortably straddled."

"Go on."

"The sooner he leaves the better. Otherwise we risk protracted public fascination with why he came here in the first place."

By a tilt of the head the Prior drew Anselm away, leading him towards the stile gate and the bluebell path. "I'm going to find out what the sisters think. They had a Chapter this morning."

As they walked through the grass, wet with dew, Anselm pursued his point. "If he's forced to go now, any uproar will be short-lived. And there is an explanation we can give in the future if we get hammered for throwing an innocent man onto the street."

"Which is?"

"This is a monastery, not a remand home for the elderly." Anselm was pleased with the phrase. It was pithy and rounded: a good sound bite...prepared earlier.

The Prior nodded, mildly unimpressed. Anselm persevered, eyeing the Prior as he'd often eyed judges in another life when trying to read their minds.

"The alternative is the other, longer horn. If he moves in, and that's what it will amount to, we're in trouble. There could be a trial." Anselm paused. "Nothing we say will convince any victims that we're not on his side."

They reached the stile and the Prior climbed over onto the path, gathering his black habit under one arm, the white scapular thrown over one shoulder. Anselm sensed him drifting away, chasing private thoughts. "We should find out more tomorrow night. Detective Superintendent Milby's coming at six. I'd like you and Wilf to be there. Then we'll have a Special Chapter. Let everyone know, will you?"

"Yes, of course."

Anselm watched Father Prior disappear along the path, across a haze of blue and purple, his habit swaying in the breeze, his head bowed.

Anselm had met Detective Superintendent Milby several times in the past. In those days Milby had been a foot soldier with the drugs squad. He had long hair and dressed in jeans, but still managed to look like a policeman. Anselm had been a hack at the London Bar and their meetings had been limited to the pro-forma cross-examination about stitching up and excessive violence. Like all policemen familiar with the courts, Milby had taken it in his stride. That was well over ten years ago, and they'd both moved on since then.

Leaning against the stile gate, Anselm could almost smell the heavy scent of floor wax from his old chambers, and hear again the raucous laughter of competing voices in the coffee room. He smiled to himself, winsomely.

When Anselm left the Bar it caused a minor sensation, not least because it was such a wonderful Robing Room yarn. Since it was endemic to the profession to treat such things with private gravity and public levity, Anselm only heard the lowered voices of shared empathy: "Tell me, old son, is it true? You're off to a monastery? I can say this to you, but we've all got secret longings. The job's not everything..."

Anselm had knocked up ten years' call but, unknown to his colleagues, had never fully settled into harness. There was a restlessness that started to grow shortly after he became a tenant. Imperceptibly, he began to feel out of place, as if in a foreign land. There was another language, rarely spoken, and he wanted to learn it. Determined attempts to live a "normal" life as a professional man floundered at regular but unpredictable intervals. He could be waiting for a taxi or heading off to court, doing anything ordinary, and he would suddenly feel curiously alienated from his surroundings. It was a sort of homesickness, usually mild, and occasionally acute. He later called these attacks by stealth "promptings." All Anselm knew at the time was that they were vaguely religious in origin. He responded by purchasing various translations of the Bible and books on prayer, as if the answer to the puzzle lay somewhere between the pages. On one occasion he left a bookshop having ordered a thirty-eight-volume edition of the Early Church Fathers. They remained as they came, in three cardboard boxes strapped with tape and stacked in the corner of his living room, and used as an inelegant resting place for coffee-cups and take-away detritus. Anselm would then recover, and continue his life at the Bar until ambushed by another God-ward impulse. It was a sort of guerrilla war for which he was always unprepared and ill-equipped. And all the while his book collection became larger, more comprehensive, and unread. Eventually he stopped buying books. He realised one day whilst looking through a wide-angle lens that he wanted to become a monk.

It was a slightly odd experience. On leaving the Court of Appeal one late November afternoon, he was stopped in his tracks by a Chinese tourist who never ceased to smile. Several gesticulations later Anselm stood beneath the portal arch of the Royal Courts of Justice looking into the camera of a total stranger.

Suddenly he felt the urge to put the record straight, to say, "Look, you're mistaken. I'm not who or what you think I am; I'm a fraud." This happy man from a far away place had pushed an internal door ajar and Anselm knew at once what was on the other side. He set off down the steps with incomprehensible protestations ringing in his ears-from himself...and from the tourist who'd inadvertently nudged him away from the Bar. Taking the bus to Victoria, Anselm walked past the bookshop and into Westminster Cathedral, where he sat down beneath the dark interlocking bricks of the nave, and prayed. It was to be the only moment of near certainty in Anselm's subsequent religious life. The jostling between doubt and perseverance was to come later. But at that time he understood, at last, what the underlying problem had been. It had been Larkwood Priory all along.

 

"Rich with medieval and biblical allusion, The 6th Lamentation is an intricate mystery of both the mind and soul.... [Brodrick] has written an engrossing novel in which appearances are disastrously deceptive and the sins of the father painfully come to bear on the sons (and daughters)." —USA Today

           

Larkwood Priory, England: 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. But the answer sets off more trouble than he ever could have imagined when the man returns, demanding the protection of the Church. He is Eduard Schwermann, a suspected Nazi war criminal.

Agnes Aubret has unburdened a secret to her granddaughter Lucy. Fifty years earlier, Agnes was in occupied Paris, risking her life to smuggle Jewish children to safety—until her group was exposed by an SS officer: Eduard Schwermann.

Not only has the Church granted Schwermann sanctuary before; in 1944 it helped him escape from France to begin a new life in Britain. As Anselm attempts to find out why and as Lucy delves deeper into her grandmother's past, their investigations dovetail to form a remarkable story.
 
William Brodrick makes a dazzling debut in this literary thriller where two seemingly unconnected lives gradually, shockingly converge. Brodrick, himself a former Augustinian friar, is a master of precision plotting, morally complex characterization, and crisp historical re-creation. In Father Anselm, Brodrick has crafted a unique and compelling hero. Taut and completely compelling, The 6th Lamentation promises to be the literary thriller discovery of the season.

 

CHAPTER ONE

"Sanctuary."

"My bottom!"

"Honestly."

The Prior, Father Andrew, was fond of diluting harsher well-known expressions for monastic use, but the sentiment remained largely the same. He was an unconverted Glaswegian tamed by excessive education, but shades of the street fighter were apt to break out when grappling with the more unusual community problems.

"It was abolished ages ago. He can't be serious."

"Well, he is," said Anselm.

"When did he come out with that one?"

"This morning, when Wilf asked him to leave."

The Prior scowled. "I suppose he declined to oblige?"

"Yes. And he told Wilf there's nowhere he can go."

The two monks were sitting on a wooden bench on the south transept lawn of the Old Abbey ruin. It was Anselm's favourite spot at Larkwood. Facing them, on the South Walk cloister wall, were the remnants of the night stairs from the now vanished dorter. He liked to sit here and muse upon his thirteenth-century ancestors, cowled and silent, making their way down for the night hours. The lawn, eaten by moss, spread away, undulating towards the enclosure fencing and, beyond that, to the bluebell path which led to the convent. It was a sharp morning. The Prior had just come back from a trip to London, having managed to miss the main item on all news bulletins. He'd returned home to find a gaggle of reporters and television crews camped on his doorstep.

"Give it to me again, in order," said the Prior. He always insisted upon accurate chronologies.

"The story broke in a local newspaper of all places. By the time the nationals had got to his home he was here, claiming the protection of the Church."

"What did Wilf say?"

"Words to the effect that the police wouldn't pay any heed to Clement III."

"Who was Clement III?"

"The Pope who granted the Order the right of sanctuary."

"Trust Wilf to know that." Disconcerted, he added, "How did you know?"

"I had to ask as well."

"That's all right then." He returned to his mental listing. "Go on, then what?"

"Wilf rang the police. The first I knew about anything was when the media were at the gates. I had a few words with them, batting back daft questions."

Father Andrew examined his nails, flicking his thumb upon each finger. "But why claim sanctuary? Where did he get the idea from?"

Anselm shifted uncomfortably. He would answer that question at the right moment, not now. It was one of the first lessons Anselm had learnt after he'd placed himself subject to Holy Obedience: there's a time and a place for honesty, and it is the privilege of the servant to choose the moment of abasement with his master.

The Prior stood and paced the ground, his arms concealed beneath his scapular. He said, "We are on the two horns of one dilemma."

"Indeed."

They looked at each other, silently acknowledging the delicacy of the situation. The Prior spoke for them both:

"If he goes, there'll be international coverage of an old man protesting his innocence being handed over to the police; if he stays, we'll be damned for supporting a Nazi. Either way, to lapse into the vernacular, we're shafted."

"Succinctly put."

The Prior leaned on a sill beneath an open arcade in the south transept wall, reflectively brushing loose lichen with the back of his hand. Anselm joined him.

"Father, I think one horn is shorter than the other and more comfortably straddled."

"Go on."

"The sooner he leaves the better. Otherwise we risk protracted public fascination with why he came here in the first place."

By a tilt of the head the Prior drew Anselm away, leading him towards the stile gate and the bluebell path. "I'm going to find out what the sisters think. They had a Chapter this morning."

As they walked through the grass, wet with dew, Anselm pursued his point. "If he's forced to go now, any uproar will be short-lived. And there is an explanation we can give in the future if we get hammered for throwing an innocent man onto the street."

"Which is?"

"This is a monastery, not a remand home for the elderly." Anselm was pleased with the phrase. It was pithy and rounded: a good sound bite...prepared earlier.

The Prior nodded, mildly unimpressed. Anselm persevered, eyeing the Prior as he'd often eyed judges in another life when trying to read their minds.

"The alternative is the other, longer horn. If he moves in, and that's what it will amount to, we're in trouble. There could be a trial." Anselm paused. "Nothing we say will convince any victims that we're not on his side."

They reached the stile and the Prior climbed over onto the path, gathering his black habit under one arm, the white scapular thrown over one shoulder. Anselm sensed him drifting away, chasing private thoughts. "We should find out more tomorrow night. Detective Superintendent Milby's coming at six. I'd like you and Wilf to be there. Then we'll have a Special Chapter. Let everyone know, will you?"

"Yes, of course."

Anselm watched Father Prior disappear along the path, across a haze of blue and purple, his habit swaying in the breeze, his head bowed.

Anselm had met Detective Superintendent Milby several times in the past. In those days Milby had been a foot soldier with the drugs squad. He had long hair and dressed in jeans, but still managed to look like a policeman. Anselm had been a hack at the London Bar and their meetings had been limited to the pro-forma cross-examination about stitching up and excessive violence. Like all policemen familiar with the courts, Milby had taken it in his stride. That was well over ten years ago, and they'd both moved on since then.

Leaning against the stile gate, Anselm could almost smell the heavy scent of floor wax from his old chambers, and hear again the raucous laughter of competing voices in the coffee room. He smiled to himself, winsomely.

When Anselm left the Bar it caused a minor sensation, not least because it was such a wonderful Robing Room yarn. Since it was endemic to the profession to treat such things with private gravity and public levity, Anselm only heard the lowered voices of shared empathy: "Tell me, old son, is it true? You're off to a monastery? I can say this to you, but we've all got secret longings. The job's not everything..."

Anselm had knocked up ten years' call but, unknown to his colleagues, had never fully settled into harness. There was a restlessness that started to grow shortly after he became a tenant. Imperceptibly, he began to feel out of place, as if in a foreign land. There was another language, rarely spoken, and he wanted to learn it. Determined attempts to live a "normal" life as a professional man floundered at regular but unpredictable intervals. He could be waiting for a taxi or heading off to court, doing anything ordinary, and he would suddenly feel curiously alienated from his surroundings. It was a sort of homesickness, usually mild, and occasionally acute. He later called these attacks by stealth "promptings." All Anselm knew at the time was that they were vaguely religious in origin. He responded by purchasing various translations of the Bible and books on prayer, as if the answer to the puzzle lay somewhere between the pages. On one occasion he left a bookshop having ordered a thirty-eight-volume edition of the Early Church Fathers. They remained as they came, in three cardboard boxes strapped with tape and stacked in the corner of his living room, and used as an inelegant resting place for coffee-cups and take-away detritus. Anselm would then recover, and continue his life at the Bar until ambushed by another God-ward impulse. It was a sort of guerrilla war for which he was always unprepared and ill-equipped. And all the while his book collection became larger, more comprehensive, and unread. Eventually he stopped buying books. He realised one day whilst looking through a wide-angle lens that he wanted to become a monk.

It was a slightly odd experience. On leaving the Court of Appeal one late November afternoon, he was stopped in his tracks by a Chinese tourist who never ceased to smile. Several gesticulations later Anselm stood beneath the portal arch of the Royal Courts of Justice looking into the camera of a total stranger.

Suddenly he felt the urge to put the record straight, to say, "Look, you're mistaken. I'm not who or what you think I am; I'm a fraud." This happy man from a far away place had pushed an internal door ajar and Anselm knew at once what was on the other side. He set off down the steps with incomprehensible protestations ringing in his ears-from himself...and from the tourist who'd inadvertently nudged him away from the Bar. Taking the bus to Victoria, Anselm walked past the bookshop and into Westminster Cathedral, where he sat down beneath the dark interlocking bricks of the nave, and prayed. It was to be the only moment of near certainty in Anselm's subsequent religious life. The jostling between doubt and perseverance was to come later. But at that time he understood, at last, what the underlying problem had been. It had been Larkwood Priory all along.

 

"Rich with medieval and biblical allusion, The 6th Lamentation is an intricate mystery of both the mind and soul.... [Brodrick] has written an engrossing novel in which appearances are disastrously deceptive and the sins of the father painfully come to bear on the sons (and daughters)." —USA Today

           

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2010

    Slow

    The book is a little slow and has a lot of characters that don't seem to connect right away. It was a good book but certainly not the best on this period of history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2004

    Very satisfying read

    This book draws you in slowly at the beginning, and the gradual development of the characters and story is very satisfying. I didn't feel 'rushed' while reading this book as I do some thrillers, but nonetheless I didn't want to put it down. This would make a great book club read for discussion.

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    Posted October 9, 2011

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    Posted April 30, 2009

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