Saint and a Sinner: The Rise and Fall of a Beloved Catholic Priest, by Stephen Donnelly and Diane O’Bryan, is a memoir of Former Catholic Priest Fr. Stephen Donnelly. It tells the life story of Donnelly – from his childhood to his eventual exit from the ministry.
The book is a real-life story that tells a truth most of us are not willing to accept – no one is sinless or perfect, even religious leaders. Donnelly’s story also proves that what we go through during childhood has a great impact on our character and the choices we make as adults.
From the title, it’s obvious that Donnelly is not perfect. However, what eventually gets him booted from the priesthood, is a “lesser” evil compared to the thing he had done in the past. Unfortunately for him, he got caught at a time when the Catholic Church was trying to save face from the ever-increasing allegations against priests.
For me, the book was an immersive experience. It took me into the world of a Catholic priest; their way of life, virtues, and challenges. It was also a page-turner – the chapters flow naturally and chronologically, and the story is so captivating that you will have a hard time putting the book down.
What I liked most about this book is the vivid first-person narration of events. While other memoirs plainly recall events, Donnelly and O’Bryan chose to include even the conversations that happened. Ultimately, that made the story more real, engaging, and entertaining.
Saint and a Sinner is one of the most riveting memoirs I have read this year. The story was a candid look at one man who battles his inner demons. Whether you are religious or not, you will definitely find this a thought-provoking read.
The Doom Murder’s book by Brian O’Hare is a novel that is engaging from the beginning to the end, with a lot of suspense. This book amazed me with all that was tightly packed in a murder mystery, police drama, a little love story, and ending with a redemption. In this book, Mr. O’Hare’s writing is engaging and on point, helping to keep the reader engaged in the story. O’ Hare puts a vivid picture in the readers’ minds about the detectives who are working on the cases to help the reader understand the senseless murders’ that have taken place.
The Doom Murder’s is an interesting novel about a serial killer, who had a religious motive. This story is based in Ireland and follows a series of gruesome murders’ involving the Catholic church. The author does well to ensure the murders’ are sensational, even detailing the killer’s habit of numbering the bodies. These types of chilling details, coupled with religious undertones, gives the story a uniquely horrifying perspective.
The novel begins to unfold as the main character (DCI Jim Sheehan) discovers new clues and information from witnesses. The story for the most part is told from his point of view. This allows the reader to learn new things and uncover shocking truths right along side him. As the suspense continues, a Catholic Bishop was found beaten, naked, and even oddly posed in his Belfast study.
All of the victims are Catholic, hold different positions of leadership and all seem to have not followed the killers’ notion of what God wants in those entrusted to uphold the faith. Each victim is killed and posed in ways that reflect their sins. The exceptional story telling and and dark mystery remind me of the first season of the TV show True Detective. Another aspect that adds to the enjoyment of the book for me is the budding romance of the cathedral organist Margret Sands and Inspector Sheehan. This happy relationship, provides a needed counterpoint to the ugliness of the murders in this novel. The main characters are generally well written and realistic, though I did feel like there was an excessive amount of characters, especially when it came to Sheehan’s immediate team of detectives.
I enjoyed this book as a whole, from the Police procedural, Northern Ireland, the Murder, and the mystery at the heart of this story all came together to deliver and unique and gripping story. I found that the investigations, interviews, the characters, and the scenes all played a significant role in this book, and I found I was just as desperate to find the killer as the detectives were. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes detailed murder mysteries that are grounded but thrilling. Fast paced and intriguing, The Doom Murders is consistently entertaining.
Pages: 374 | ASIN: B0176IW9B6
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The Monk follows Detective Laskey and ex- detective Billy as they attempt to solve a murder while trying to overcome their past. What was the driving motivation behind this book?
The relationship between long time Police partners is unique. Only that between soldiers in combat is comparable. Investigation is far more interviewing, looking at crime scenes and bodies than it is portrayed on television. If you got in a shooting every week like on television, I can guarantee you a lot of Departmental therapy.
You never hear about all the men and women who put on the badge and hit the streets every night, often putting themselves in harms way for people they don’t even know and fulfilling the Oaths and Vows they made. These Officers never get any press and the “Bad Cops” get more press than they deserve.
I hope “The Monk Mysteries” will give more press to the “Good Cops” and provide the reader some insight as to the emotional battles that come with the job while trying to live a normal life.
I could really feel the old camaraderie between Laskey and Billy in this book. What served as sources of inspiration for you while creating their relationship?
Personal experience with longtime Partners. In particular, a guy named Jack, who passed away several years ago and far too soon. We were tight at work and off-duty for years. We worked Patrol, Narcotics and K-9 for years. However, there came a time when a similar situation as depicted in the book, as to a job change caused some friction. We went our separate ways but were able to re-connect before Jack passed away.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve gotten from your readers about the book?
Most often is how strong and independent the female characters are. This wasn’t a conscious act on my part rather, it is the type of women that are required to deal with the males in the book. They are also like so many of the women I have known and admired in my life.
This is book one in the Monk Series. Where will book two pick up and when will it be available?
“THE MONK Vol 1 Revised ed” is a revised version of The Monk I wrote ten years ago. After writing ‘The Gumdrop House Affair” Vol 2, of the Monk Mysteries, which has been on Kindle Best seller list for two years, I realized that I had become more confident in my writing and needed to revise the first version of the Monk. Same characters and on Capitol Hill but better and hopefully more entertaining for the Reader.
A Catholic Priest talking about Evil is not unusual. However, a Catholic Priest looking directly into the eyes of “Evil” who the Monk calls “The Ugly” is unusual even for the Capitol Hill area of Denver and St. Benedict the Moor’s Church. This is just one of the “Spiritual Tests” the Monk faces as he attempts to solve the murder of Julia Lopez with his ex-Partner Det. Sgt. Jack Laskey.
With political pressure applied by the Governor, the Archbishop of Denver and the Franciscan Provincial, The Monk becomes a “Special Consultant” and helps Laskey solve the “Murder of the Decade” and save his position which was in jeopardy due to his inability to adjust to any Partner other than the Monk. During the course of the investigation the Monk faces the “Ugly” in many forms in the present and confrontations from the past. Those confrontations led the Monk to become a Priest and a “Spiritual Warrior” as well as a “Physical Warrior.” Leaving the and security of “Our Lady of the Rockies” Orphanage run by his Order, the Monk must return to the streets of Denver and find the killers with Laskey.
William Yeats Butler known as “The Monk” on Capitol Hill gave up a promising career in the NFL to become a Policeman. He had been an All-American at Notre Dame and was a local Hero and role model in Denver. Through 10 years with Laskey as his Partner, they worked Patrol, Narcotics and Homicide. They were the “Toughest Cops” on the streets of Denver. In their quest they are assisted by Irish/Japanese Officer Mai Li McDuff. Some would say she got the worst of both cultures; “Peaches” the transvestite hooker; “Popcan Charley” a resident of Cheeseman Park; “Mikey” the restaurant owner with Mob connections and “Frank” the only “Irish English Bulldog” in Colorado – all this under the watchful eyes of Father Ian Timony, Father Augustus O’Shea and Aunt Rhoda Williams.
Reinhold Commons Webster likes being in church. His family hopes he will follow the priesthood path, and his only desire is to be an altar boy. However, he is thrust into an abyss of sadistic abuse. He watched his friend penetrated with impunity until he could no longer hold on to life. The same end awaited him. Therefore Reinhold makes a deal that provides him with a little reprieve. With no one else willing to help him or the others, this deal is his only hope. The deal does nothing to erase what has already happened but what comes next will have to be enough.
This story, albeit short, is aggressively evocative. Written in such detail, the candor of it is well justified by the desire to shine a light on this abomination. The author also puts a spotlight on the role of parents and other authority figures in all of this. Their adverse reactions to the damaging situations the victims are plunged into. Figures who choose to ridicule these children rather than save them from their plight.
This is a very purposeful book. It might seem a bit crass, but the painful detail in this story is very necessary and intentional. It works to ingrain an image that would potentially start a movement for the rescue of actual victims. The end is quite alarming and should serve as a warning to perpetrators.
The confessional is a place where people go to seek solace and relief from the burden of sin. However, in this instance the title serves as a reminder that these places represent personal hells for some people. As a reader, one cannot help but weep for the poor boys. One cannot help but advocate for the punishment of the perpetrator. This is the extent of the writer’s to appeal to the reader’s soul by use of words and language.
This story should be used as a rallying call against child abuse everywhere and especially of the sexual sort. It should stand as a war cry for abused children everywhere to appeal to their parents for help. It is evocative and stern in no uncertain terms. The author’s passion for this cause is obvious and this story is engaging and thought provoking.
Pages: 49 | ASIN: B07PGTS8LC
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Young Jim has reached adolescence and is struggling with where he fits in life. Mostly because he doesn’t know himself well enough at this point to figure out where he feels most at home. He doesn’t fit in school. He joins a gang where he can only hope to belong, but never really does. His home is more house than home with both his parents living almost separate lives. Will the relationships he fosters be meaningful enough to withstand the tumult of adolescent existence?
Jim’s story is quite representative of what teens go through. The author has woven an almost poignant tale of Jim’s struggle to find a home. The story is thoughtfully narrated with an evocative plot and colored with insightful observations. Most of all, it is candid. All has been bared for the reader to see and experience. The reader is pulled into this abyss of raw emotion and overwhelming teenage confusion from the minute Jim celebrates his entrance into the Lancers (the gang) to the point where he loses his friend.
The book makes sparing use of dialogue and utilizes mostly internal dialogues between Jim and the ‘Voice’. The reader gets in depth peeks into Jim’s mind. This helps carry the story and paints a clearer picture of what Jim must have been going through. It is actually easy to lose oneself in Jim’s mind as it is a web of unanswered questions, self-doubt and all-around uncertainty. This is brilliantly executed and is well suited to the plot.
The book is written in plain language that is easy to understand, utilizing simple language to create striking imagery. Keeping the focus on the intriguing characters rather than on some grand literary design. Each character represents some form of human insecurity or peculiarity. Almost every reader will recognize themselves in one or more of the characters. Thereby enhancing the bond between the reader and characters for a more fulfilling experience.
This book left me feeling… haunted (I suppose that’s the right word). Although in the end Jim seems to be settling down, I felt that his questions of where he really belongs and his purpose have not been fully covered. This begs the question; will human beings always carry a degree of uncertainty with them?
This is an exceptional installment in the Leaving Home Trilogy. The first one was an absolute delight, the second one is undeniably beautiful and I am positively giddy for the third.
Pages: 234 | ASIN: B07CPDY81Y
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Gazelle in the Shadows follows Elizabeth as she navigates a dangerous web of lies, betrayal and murder. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
The inspiration for this book came many years after the events happened in my life. Over the years, I rarely spoke about my former life as a diplomat in Yemen during the Iraq/Kuwait war nor my student life in Damascus but to those I opened up to, I was encouraged to write a book. Then in 2011, the civil war in Syria began and I felt a conviction to let readers know about the traditions and kindness of the Syrian people and the history and beauty of the country I had witnessed before the devastation.
Elizabeth is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character?
Elizabeth’s driving ideals are to make her father proud by proving herself to him and to find love. Once a daddy’s girl, her relationship with her father deteriorates in her teenage years as her father implements stricter rules on her than on her older brother. She had always been an avid reader, dreaming of traveling to foreign lands. Her travels help her to escape her father’s harsh judgment and provide her with an opportunity to prove her worth to him and to herself. Because of her sheltered life, first with a Catholic upbringing and then in a diplomatic bubble, she is both emotionally and physically unprepared for her journey to Syria. She is remarkably naive and trusting of others and lacks rudimentary information about the country in a pre internet era. Her journey opens her up to the harsh realities of life where people are not always as they appear and after a series of innocuous and seemingly unconnected events, she not only discovers love but betrayal too. Facing many dangers, her strengths and courage are put to the test and ultimately she comes to appreciate her family and herself in new light.
You are a former employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. How has your experience helped you write this book?
I worked in the Foreign Office between 1986 and 1991, initially in London and then in the British Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen Arab Republic. My experiences undoubtedly helped me to write my novel as the genesis of the story was born from my three years serving in Yemen. As told in the book, I unwittingly met the infamous George Habash, the founder of the PFLP, in Aden. This actual encounter played a crucial part in the story. Other true stories from my service involving MI6, the British secret service and foreign diplomats helped to create the twists and turns in the story arc.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
After graduating from Durham University, I went to work in Dubai, UAE for an oil shipping company. As I like to write fiction based on reality, the sequel is based in Dubai and my experiences working there. I am currently writing a story which follows Elizabeth who enters the ranks of the MI6. She is sent undercover to Dubai where she unearths an Iranian plot to undermine British and American interests in the region. The question is, will she meet Hussein again?
In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University. With some travel and work already under her belt, she excels at her studies and is sent to Damascus to immerse herself in the language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always what they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and even murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.
Posted in Interviews
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The Witch Trials: The Becoming, by Intrigue Sui Generis, is a short work of historical dramatic fiction. The book is centered around the life and times of Sylvie, a middle-class woman living in southern France during the late 17th century. The story is predominantly about her life, her personal difficulties, and the broader milieu of the time period. Much of the story also concerns her husband Leon and his relationship to the broader Catholic Church, though the nature of this relationship is not well described, or at the least it is unclear how he is so involved with the church despite his main profession. The book also includes content about the broader scope of the time period.
The historical content of this book reads as semi-fictions with the author’s experiences, beliefs, worldview, and sense of morality bleeding into the pages of this book. The 1600’s in France were themselves bloody times, but the author largely washes away that bloody history, due in part to a lack of detail in the story. The story also includes much more active female roles, especially for those of a middle-class status during that time period. While it is heart-warming to think of a female character, seeking to rise above her station in a steeply patriarchal society infused with, what we would consider, harsh and vile religious fundamentalism, much of it is romanticized so that you can follow Sylvie’s story through this dark time without feeling too down about it.
Sylvie’s entire history prior to her marriage to Leon is contained within a single page, which seemed too short for me as I found her to be an intriguing character and I wanted to learn more about her. I enjoyed that this book was a short and concise novella, but at the expense of detail. Sylvie comes from a Protestant upbringing, but I felt it was unclear what kind of Protestant. The brevity of the story helps focus this book into a character driven novella, but leaves you wanting more. Overall, the historical additions of the book are strong and seemingly well-researched (as evidenced by the bibliography at the end of the text), but I would have loved to have this further fleshed out to lengthen the book, and these details would have clarified the setting and character motivations for me.
The Witch Trials: The Becoming is intended for a young adult audience with a decent attempt at historical accuracy. There is sexual content, but it is only slightly more bawdy than a television show from the 1950’s. There are also depictions of human suffering, the outcome of torture, and threats of imminent pain and death, but these are also very sterile. Overall, this book is short and easily provides a few short hours of entertainment.
Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07D68YSQZ
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Pyre to Fire follows two stories, the fate of a Spanish village during the Inquisition and the contemporary story of a Cuban girl trying to find her roots. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This was the story of my own family with information that I gleaned from all the archival material that I found while researching my own genealogy. While the trajectory of the family, their occupations, names, etc are the not fiction, I had to embellish on the scenes and fill in the blanks. The little girl in Miami is me and it was important to show the relationship between me and my ancestors in as real a way as possible.
I enjoyed the detail in your vision of the village of Fermoselle during Spain’s sudden and devastating conversion to Catholicism. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure your book was accurate?
All my material is primary sourced. I have every single birth, death and marriage certificate as well as land purchases, notarial deeds and last wills of testaments going back to 1545. I then have just wills, notarial deeds and Inquisition records in the archives going back to 1405 Spain and Portugal.
Maria’s character was one that I thought was well developed and captured her soul. What was the inspiration for her character?
I am Maria. The whole description of incidents is exactly as they happened to me.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is The Recipes of the 15 Grandmothers. I was able to locate recipes that were passed to my Mother from Crypto Jewish times through today. The are special in that any keep the kosher laws even when the family was Catholic and are clearly showing a sign of their times. This book is finished and in the editing process.
A compelling work of historical fiction that engages the reader to follow the story of a family from the burning Pyres of the Spanish Inquisition to a young Cuban Catholic girl in Miami, Florida whose soul was ablaze with a desire to return to its’ rightful place among the Jewish people.
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