My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Usually, I’m hard pressed to name a favorite book each year, but for 2011, there’s simply no contest. Yesterday I finished The 6th Lamentation, by William Brodrick, and it’s one of the 10 best books I’ve ever read. This is a complex novel, part historical fiction and part thriller, overflowing with compelling characters and fueled by an intricate plot in which nothing is what it seems.
A former Nazi officer, Eduard Schwermann, evaded prosecution for war crimes by escaping to England, where he’s lived incognito for 50 years. When his arrest becomes imminent, he seeks sanctuary at Larkwood Priory. Schwermann’s case is likely to raise unpleasant questions about the involvement of the Catholic Church, and the Vatican assigns the priory’s Father Anselm to look into the possible repercussions. He begins with the sketchy knowledge that Schwermann’s escape had something to do with a small French resistance group who smuggled Jewish children out of occupied Paris. As Anselm delves into records and interviews the few now-elderly survivors and their families, an amazing story unfolds.
The 6th Lamentation is both a highly literate mystery and a gripping morality tale, filled with suspense and pathos, misjudgment and misinterpretation, justice and punishment, condemnation and forgiveness. As this book so brilliantly reminds us, the past is always with us, for better or worse.