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A riveting crime novel by Irish Benedictine monk Andrew Nugent explores the darkness found in the human soul
When Maurice Tyson, housemaster at a top boys’ boarding school in Ireland, is found with his throat slit, Superintendent Denis Lennon and Sergeant Molly Power of the Irish Police Force struggle to uncover any probable motive for the brutal killing. Was it revenge? A kidnap attempt by terrorists gone badly wrong? Or is there a connection to a former student who killed himself barely a year ago?
A boy mysteriously disappears and the hunt is on for his abductors. But when another body is found, the situation gets even darker. Someone out there has a terrible secret, and will stop at nothing to keep it hidden.
Andrew Nugent’s third police procedural is a tour de force, filled with the compassion, insight, and humor that consistently mark the work of this very talented author.
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Andrew Nugent is a former trial lawyer. As a Benedictine monk of Glenstal Abbey, he was headmaster of the Abbey school before spending nine years in a foundation monastery in Nigeria. He has traveled extensively in Europe, the United States, the Middle East, and West Africa. Nugent lives in Limerick, Ireland.
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Chapter One‘Midnight barbecues are the pits. I mean, in the jungle or some place roasting they might be okay. In Ireland, they’re the pits.’Wasn’t that typical of Gilhooly. Always bitching!‘Get lost, will you, Gilhooly,’ Jim Higgins exclaimed.‘Piss off,’ the little French boy added. He was practising his idioms. But Gilhooly persisted, as if thirsting for martyrdom.‘Well it’s true, isn’t it? We’re all frozen to death. These sausages are only half cooked. That other mess tastes like puke. Plus we’ll all be wrecked in the morning.’‘That’s what I hate about you, Gilhooly,’ Higgins retorted disgustedly, ‘you never agree with anything we plan, but you always insist on tagging along and belly-aching every inch of the way. Why didn’t you just stay in bed, snoring and farting, like you always do?’Seven third-year boys – average age fifteen – were struggling to have a midnight barbecue in late October. In Ireland, this is simply not possible; and St Isidore’s boarding school, as Gilhooly implied, is in Ireland. Everything else that Gilhooly said was also true: that is why the others found him so annoying. They were frozen, the food was awful, and they would very likely be sick and shattered in the morning.So why did they do it? Why did they hold these miserable midnight barbecues that nobody in his right mind could possibly enjoy at all? Addiction? Or for a dare? Routine sado-masochism perhaps – or one of these crazy things that people do for charity?None of these motivations played any part at all. These boys were on manoeuvres for the single and most compelling reason in the code and lexicon of boys’ boarding schools everywhere and wherever – tradition.The midnight barbecue was one of the most hallowed traditions at St Isidore’s. It was an essential rite of passage, one of the evil deeds absolutely necessary for salvation. The midnight barbecue was like stealing fire from the gods. Even such punishments as having your liver fed to eagles or rolling boulders up mountains for all eternity – which is what happened to Sisyphus, or one of those Greek dudes – did not deter the stout hearts of St Isidore’s. After all, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, and these men did it with gusto – even several times.Successive headmasters had laboured mightily to stamp out this deplorable and dangerous custom. Still boys persisted in disappearing into the forest by night, in spite of all the terrors and discomforts of that time and place. Truth to tell, even in the best of circumstances, they cannot have enjoyed the experience very much. But there are more things to life than crass enjoyment. The young scholars of St Isidore’s, like adolescents everywhere and at all times, were putting down markers, pushing out boundaries and generally giving notice to their elders that they had arrived on the planet and would not be going away any time soon. Folksy wisdom has always acknowledged that boys will be boys. There are depths and demands in that seemingly innocuous proposition. That is why the boys of St Isidore’s were doing the barbecue thing. And that, too, is why the headmaster was trying to stop them.‘It won’t look good at the inquest,’ the current headmaster, Dr Derwas Fisher, had said on more than one occasion, shaking his head gloomily. He seemed convinced that there would inevitably be an inquest eventually. At midnight in the forest, accidents are just queueing up to happen, and the track record had not been reassuring. One boy had fallen down a deep ravine in the dark and broken his wrist. Another had been attacked by a badger that had crunched his big toe between powerful teeth. Still another had nearly been shot by poachers hunting for deer. And one legendary hero from the dim and distant past had had to be rushed to hospital to have his stomach pumped out, having drunk some lethal distillation, half learned in chemistry class.So the school authorities had grown rigorously vigilant about these nocturnal adventures. They could not very well lock the boys into their dormitories by night. There had been too many horrific cases in various parts of the world where this had been done, and dozens of children had perished in flames because they could not get out of a blazing inferno. Instead, at St Isidore’s, in the summer term and again in early autumn, there was a policy of frequent random checks in all dormitories at any and every hour of the night. This tactic had proved that it had teeth and several arrests had followed, usually whole dormitories at a time. Summary justice was meted out in the shape of mandatory suspension for a week.In the days when school authorities smacked children, which was really a form of body language – provided one was careful to speak that language correctly – being caught on a midnight barbecue was regarded as a fair cop, and even as part of the excitement of living dangerously. But political correctness had put paid to anything as uncivilized as corporal punishment and replaced it with excruciating and mean-minded scoldings, followed by mandatory suspension.Suspension was a pernicious and inequitable punishment, simply because it meant totally different things in different households.In one, ‘Oh, darling, how lovely to see you. I’ll cook your favourite supper.’In another, ‘You little brat, disgracing us before all the parents.’In a third, ‘Brilliant! We’ll go waterskiing!’And in a fourth, ‘You will not put a foot outside that door for the entire week, and no television. You can catch up on your school work, which you have obviously been totally neglecting.’This last remark really hurt. That boy was not the brightest blade in the pack, God knows, but he had been working really hard, just trying to keep up.Another boy, whose parents were divorced and both remarried, was heard to complain sourly to his dormitory companions as they went into exile: ‘It’s all right for you buggers. I have four of them, and the only thing they can all agree on is that I am a total asshole.’He got lucky, and his grandparents took him. He had a happy week. Grandparents and grandchildren have one deep conviction in common: the parents are pretty dumb.Meanwhile the boys of St Isidore’s had no alternative but to change the rules of the game and even to move the goalposts. Instead of holding midnight barbecues in summer or in autumn, they would hold them in early spring or even in the depths of winter. This meant risking either hypothermia or setting half the forest ablaze, and themselves with it, as they spewed petrol or paraffin on what could too easily have been their own funeral pyres.There had even been a barbecue in the snow where one sanguine youth – too good for this wicked world – had appeared in pyjamas and football boots. In twenty minutes he had turned blue with the cold and could hardly speak. Gilhooly, who had been reading with avid interest about sailors shipwrecked in Arctic waters, suggested gleefully one way to induce a sharp rise in body temperature. The innocent iceman, shocked to the depths of his sensitive soul, had found enough voice to croak ‘Like shit, Gilhooly, you queer’ before stumbling off to his bed, which he should never have left in the first place.Gilhooly could be odious. When the headmaster from time to time scolded his companions for being horrible to ‘Eddie’, the answer was always the same. ‘You don’t have to live with him, sir!’ On the other hand, Gilhooly had his uses. For one thing, he seemed to know a lot about sex. For instance, on the basis of his superior knowledge in this department, he had been able to tell his classmates authoritatively when would be the best night for a barbecue.‘Have you seen that chart thing that Tyson has pasted up on his wall?’Mr Tyson was the housemaster, and some of them had indeed noticed the chart and wondered what it was.‘Well, that proves that this would be a brilliant night for a barbecue.’‘Why?’ they all said.‘Aha!’ Gilhooly explained. ‘Because this is a temperature chart.’‘So?’‘So, this is a chart of Tyson’s temperature. It shows exactly when it is safe for him to have sex without having a whole load of unwanted babies as well.’There was an undeniably pregnant silence. Then Martin Wilson said: ‘I thought it was the lady who, sort of, that you had to have the temperature of.’‘You perfect ignoramus,’ Gilhooly snapped. ‘What has the woman got to do with it?’Martin did not rightly know, so he remained silent. Gilhooly resumed magisterially, ‘Anyhow, I can tell from this chart that tonight is the night.’‘Why?’ they all said again.‘Because the temperature is precisely spot on, and the coast will be clear. Tyson, as soon as he thinks we are asleep, will be spending the night – elsewhere.’The boys looked at each other, bewildered. Karl Hogan said: ‘I don’t believe you, Gilhooly. Tyson is very old, you know, nearly fifty or something. I mean, you’re over the top, like, from that point of view, I mean, years before you get to be fifty.’‘Nonsense,’ Gilhooly snorted. ‘Half the guys in the Bible had kids when they were five hundred or something. They were begetting like crazy.’‘Yeah,’ Martin interjected, ‘but they had to work overtime, to get the world population up and running, like. It’s different nowadays.’Gilhooly smiled acidly. ‘Really? How different? Do your parents still do it, Martin?’There was a shocked silence. There are things that even boys do not talk about. Martin blushed scarlet.‘Shut your face, Gilhooly, will you? Just shut your face!’
Whatever wild theory Gilhooly might have had about Mr Tyson’s ‘temperature chart’ — which was, in fact, nothing more exciting than a record of local daily rainfall, made at the request of the national meteorological service – his effrontery was such that the other boys tended to believe what he said. When, therefore, that night, Mr Tyson had indeed left his room about twenty minutes after lights-out, and had even turned off his own light, which he would not have done if he had intended to return there any time soon, they had waited for another half an hour. Then Higgins, who by common consent was the natural leader of the band, gave the signal.‘Go for it!’So they went for it.SOUL MURDER. Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Nugent. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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Book Description Minotaur Books, 2009. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0312536569
Book Description Minotaur Books, 2009. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110312536569