St Agathas Breast

T. C. Van Adler, Author, T. C. Van Alder, Author, Alder, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-20019-0
Gruesome murders, graft and wildly deviant sexual practices among the denizens of a rundown Italian monastery in Rome enliven this fast-moving, if superficial, black comedy debut set in motion by the theft of some old paintings from the abbey of San Redempto. With a little investigation, the abbey's archivist, Reverend Brocard Curtis, learns that the stolen art depicting martyrs may be valuable unrecognized early works by Poussin. As Brocard digs into the mystery of the theft, aided by a Serbo-Croatian transsexual art history professor, Zinka Pavlic, and her girlfriend, his fellow monks keep turning up murdered in progressively more grotesque fashion. Bodies are discovered in the garden, the well and even impaled on the praying hands of a statue of Mary. Soon nature itself rises against the abbey in torrential rain and mud slides that bring down the old buildings, and the Church disbands the brothers' order in response to the scandal. Now the surviving members, such as Father Dionysius, the only heterosexual among them, are spread throughout the world and keep in touch through the wonders of e-mail, while Brocard's pursuit of the theft propels him to the Vatican and then the Louvre. The action takes place in numerous short chapters that often have little sequential connection to one another, making for jarring reading. Throughout, the monks remorselessly commit petty crimes and engage in prohibited sex acts, including sadomasochism, pederasty, whoring and even live video cyber-exhibitionism on the Worldwide Web. Of course, the villains go even further astray. First novelist Van Adler reportedly ""works for the Roman Catholic Church."" If, as it appears, he or she has an ax to grind with his or her employer, the author manages it with some suspense and an over-the-top, often macabre sense of humor. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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