19 April 2014

Review: THE DISCOURTESY OF DEATH, William Brodrick

  • published in 2013
  • ISBN 9-781408-704738
  • 336 pages
  • #5 in the Father Anselm series
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

An anonymous letter sent to Larkwood's Prior accuses Peter Henderson, an academic celebrity renowned for daring ideas, of a grotesque murder: the calculated killing of Jenny, his disabled partner, believed by everyone to have died peacefully two years previously from a sudden attack of cancer. But for this letter there is no evidence, no suspect and no crime.
Time has moved on.Lives have been rebuilt. Grief and loss are tempered by a comforting thought: a paralysed woman, once an acclaimed dancer, had died quickly and painlessly, spared a drawn out illness; a life marked by agonising misfortune had come to a merciful end.
But now Anselm has been told the truth behind the soothing lie. He must move cautiously to expose the killer and the killing. He must think of young Timothy, Jenny and Peter's son. A boy who is still learning to live without his mother. And so Anselm begins his most delicate investigation yet, unaware that Jenny's adoring father is also thinking of Timothy's future; that this urbane former army officer is haunted by the memory of torture and shoot-to-kill operations in Northern Ireland; that he remains capable of anything, if he thinks it's for the best; that he has set out to execute Peter Henderson. Death, dying and killing, however, were never so complicated.

My Take

An article in a local newspaper about Father Anselm's recent investigations provokes a flurry of appeals for help, among them a letter to the Prior himself asking for an investigation into the death of Jennifer Henderson some two years earlier, supposedly from bowel cancer.The writer of the letter implies that her husband Peter was responsible for her death.

The appeals coincide with the Prior coming to the conclusion that Father Anselm's investigative abilities should be made more widely available to the community. They agree that he will try to discover the truth of Jennifer Henderson's death.

As with the earlier title in the series that I read recently, A WHISPERED NAME, there is nothing simple about this investigation. The novel is not a straight forward "whodunnit", but a complex mix of philosophical issues, particularly those related to assisted suicide, and carefully layering of the details about Jenny's family, tempered by Anselm's own persistence even when those around him want him to stop. This makes for rather slower reading, and I dutifully followed one red herring after another, but again I found it very enjoyable.

My rating: 4.7
See a review on Reactions to Reading
I've also reviewed A WHISPERED NAME(#3 in the series)

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