Standing in the shadows of the Vatican, the cavernous, decaying abbey of San Redempto, once a community of more than a hundred, now houses only about a dozen and has been forgotten by the church. San Redempto's obscurity is threatened, however, when six of the seven age-blackened paintings of martyrs that have long hung in its hallways are stolen. The remaining painting--depicting the martyrdom of St. Agatha--is identified by Reverend Brocard Curtis, the monastery's archivist , as a long-lost treasure, most likely by Poussin. These events seem destined to bring the kind of attention to San Redempto that many, within the priority and without, have been working for years to avoid.
While Brocard sets about trying to uncover the province of the paintings and solve the riddle of the theft, others frantically work to protect their secrets, resorting to murder, with conspiracy upon conspiracy reaching deep into the church itself. In the tradition of The Club Dumas and An Instance of the Fingerpost, St. Agatha's Breast is a brilliantly written novel, rich in detail and insight, a story of corruption, sexuality, blood oranges, and murder that is enlightening and compelling.
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T.C. Van Adler is very experienced in the worlds of both art and the church. Van Adler is a pseudonym.From Kirkus Reviews:
A debut thriller set in an Italian monasterymany generations removed from the abbey of The Name of the Rose, but completely faithful to its spirit. Had Martin Luther ever turned his hand to potboilers, he might have bequeathed us with something like this: a decadent abbey, inhabited by perverted maniacs, falls under the rule of a faithless prior whose cynicism is outstripped only by that of his venal underlings who, with Napoleonic zeal, busy themselves (between orgies) with looting and embezzling the abbeys treasury. Long forgotten amid the plundered splendors of the abbey is a magnificent portrait of St. Agatha, signed Nicolas Poussin, 1629. The monks of San Redempto probably know more about Poussin than they do about St. Agatha, but neither name is likely to excite much interest among themuntil the portrait suddenly vanishes. It begins to look as if a crime has disturbed the abbeys peace. Whom shall we look to, for either guidance or arrest? Father Prior, a sadomasochist and fascist, whose subterranean torture chamber becomes the scene of an even worse crime than the portraits theft? The coprophilic Father Otger? Antonio, the porter, or his brother Manolo, the cook (both of whom have turned a tidy profit over the years through their diligent manipulation of the abbeys accounts)? What about the seemingly innocent, apparently simple Father Brocard, assigned to the investigation by the prior as a means of ensuring that case will never be solved? Or the art historian Hoop Rhutten, whose present connections within the art world disguise his former life as a monk of San Redempto? Under Luthers stern gaze, the paintings disappearance would have seemed trivial, compared with the barbarities practiced daily at San Redempto. A caricature of religion and religious life, too heavy-handed to be funny, too obvious to be diverting. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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