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St. Agatha's Breast: A Novel Paperback – December 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Six paintings have been stolen from the declining Roman monastery of San Redempto, and the remaining painting, of the martyr St. Agatha, is revealed to be a possible treasure by a French Master. This revelation spells unwanted attention and change for the 12 members of the dwindling religious community as enemies old and new gather to reap the artistic and financial windfall. For many, the discovery brings violence, as various members of the community try desperately to protect their secrets. For others, it brings freedom, and for the abbey's archivist, Brocard, it brings a mystery to be solved. A fascinating mixture of good, evil, blood, religion, and the Internet, this first novel is a compelling read. An international cast of flamboyant characters, a fantastic brooding atmosphere, and nearly absurd levels of corruption only add to the fun. The sex acts depicted (straight, bisexual, gay, and S&M) may offend sensitive readers, but this is not an erotic book. Highly recommended for most collections.?Devon Thomas, Highland Township Lib., MI
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Alyson Books; 1st Alyson edition (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555837085
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555837082
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,458,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is wonderful. The plot revolves around stolen artwork from a monastary in Rome. No one is pious, chaste or virtuous. Everyone has secrets, and the cast of characters are bawdy, funny and licentious. I was surprised with the accessability of these men - one of the best parts of the book is the e-mails!!!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jonblk on July 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
The blurb was enticing, and I like that old Simon Raven, Iain Pears kind of stuff anyway, and there was also a gay theme. Looked good.
The author, hiding behind a pseudonym, was an art historian, aparently, and possibly a high-up in the Catholic Church; a person of education, promising an educated read.
I have to say that I gave up some time after page 100 when I encountered about the fortieth mistake: fons et origens, a Latin phrase which ought to be fons et origo, meaning source, origin, fount of all knowledge, or whatever. The book is full of little phrases and expressions in Latin, Italian and Spanish. Unfortunately there are far too many errors in these to inspire the reader's confidence, which in my case was severely jolted on page 9 or thereabouts, where the expression 'free reign' was used. Mr or Miss Van Adler ought to know that the expression is 'free rein', and is derived from riding horses, and has nothing to do with being a queen.
The plot is highly unlikely, and not really very entertainingly expounded. I immediately wondered how Pius could understand what Manolo and Antonio were saying to each other, given that they speak to each other in Basque, a language which, curiously enough, does not appear erroneously scattered anmong the paragraphs of the book as with the Latin, etc. (see above).
There are also some British people, who speak in extremely odd, unBritish ways, for the author is from the United States, and despite an excellent topographical knowledge of Rome, and for all I know, Maastrich as well, he/she does not quite manage to capture the way in which the English and the Scots talk.
I rarely, having a completion neurosis, leave a book unfinished, but this one has defeated me. The other reviews are quite mystifying and I can only conclude that the reviewers were taken in by the blurb, as I initially was.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This novel is so far above the typical art-heist books being cranked out these days. The superb, comic writing reminds one of the best work of Ngaio Marsh. The characters in their manifold perversities, problems, and schemes are deeply satisfying. Van Adler's critical insights to the art history profession are right on target. So who is this Van Adler anyway? It's hard to believe this is really a debut novel. It seems more likely that it comes from an experienced literary comic novelist who has, for the fun of it, turned his or hand to the genre of mystery.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
After reading other reviews of St Agatha's Breast, I realize I've been taking this book too literally. On the surface, it's about a morally bankrupt monastery full of thieves, perverts, murderers, and grotesques -- on the whole, a very unsavory lot. However, if you look at it as absurdist, then I suppose it makes for an entertaining read. I confess (no pun intended) that the frequent references to pedophilia corroborates my suspicion that the practice and acceptance of same was not a deep, dark secret, that many, many people and clergy have known from time immemorial that children have been abused by priests. T.C. Adler is a pseudonym who, according to the book jacket, is "very experienced in both the worlds of art and the Church." Why the anonymity? Sorry, but had I not picked up a more wholesome novel while reading this one, I would have finished it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Willow on February 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book, and the sequel, are delightful little gems. Yes, as with others, I would love to know the real "T.C. Van Adler", an interesting person I should think. I cannot speak for the Latin, but the English usage is complex and new words abound. The plot is superficial, the novel not deep, but the writing style is enchanting.
One chapter - and all are short - is a wonderful description of the decaying building. Closing my eyes, I could picture this edifice along one of the small Roman streets.
This is a book to keep and re-read for sheer pleasure from time to time. It is fun. It would have five stars had the plot been a bit more convincing, but then again, perhaps the plot is close to truth, and I simply do now how close it may be!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rafik on June 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
St. Agatha's Breast by T.C. Van Adler was sadly, a waste of time. The only redeeming quality to the book is the plight of preserving the artistic treasures of Rome. All too often because of corruption, greed and apathy, many of Rome's finest artistic landmarks and works get lost to oblivion. Another illumnating aspect is you see how depraved some priests are and all the cases of priests abusing children don't seem as far fetched when you read this book. The plot was convoluted and the characters totally un-sympathetic. I enjoy adult stories like the next person, but the titillation went overboard for the sake of sensationalism.
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