ISBN 10: 1904738664 / ISBN 13: 9781904738664
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"Pastor's plot is well crafted, her prose sharp. . . . A disturbing mix of detection and reflection."—Publishers Weekly

"A mystery, it rivets the reader until the end and beyond, with its twist of historical realities. A historical piece, it faithfully reproduces the grim canvas of war. A character study, it captures the thoughts and actions of real people, not stereotypes."—TheFree Lance-Star

Part wartime political intrigue, detective story, psychological thriller, and religious mystery, Ben Pastor's debut follows a German army captain and a Chicago priest as they investigate the death of a nun in Nazi-occupied Poland.

In October 1939 Captain Martin Bora discovers the abbess, Mother Kazimierza, shot dead in her convent garden. Her alleged power to see the future has brought her a devoted following; her work and motto, "Lumen Christi Adiuva Nos" ("Light of Christ, help us"), appear also to have brought some enemies.

Father Malecki has come to Cracow, at the pope's bidding, to investigate Mother Kazimierza's powers. The Vatican orders him to stay and assist Bora in the inquiry into her killing. Stunned by the violence of the occupation and the ideology of his colleagues, Bora's sense of Prussian duty is tested to the breaking point. The interference of seductive actress Ewa Kowalska does not help matters.

Ben Pastor, born in Italy, has lived for thirty years in the United States, working as a university professor in Vermont. She is the author of other novels, including The Water Thief and The Fire Walker (St. Martin's Press).

From the Author: "There are at least ten related but different meanings for the word. Light, torch, source of light, light of the eye, daylight--" [LUMEN, page 123] This quote from LUMEN epitomizes, I believe, the meaning of title and novel as a paradigm of divided loyalties, and the difficulty of coming to terms with one's good and bad angels. I was born in post-WWII Italy in a professional family. My mother, a known writer and journalist, was of Jewish descent (the Sabbatinis are among the Roman Jewish families with their own badge, showing a hand reaching for the Tablet of the Laws). My physician father's family had deep roots in scholarship and the Church, and its most ancient origins were at the German speaking border of northern Italy. During the Second World War, while my father was drafted in the Italian Army and spent harsh years in a French prison camp in Africa, Mother's family was under surveillance because of its Jewish surname and Grandfather's antifascist outspokenness. It wasn't until I became an adult that the complexity of this dual heritage became significant for me. Disturbing, thrilling, typically European, it is a tension that calls for decision or suspension, action or immobility, attention or denial. Finding my mother's war-time diary after her death added depth to the dilemma. Episodes of atrocity and generosity followed one another. Her bitter words about German occupation and violence stood in stark contrast with the sketch of her offering a handful of cherries (then selling for the equivalent of fifty dollars a pound) to a 15-year old Wehrmacht soldier bound for the hell of Cassino. Hatred, compassion, fear, love.

Mother's difficulty in addressing the all-round tragedy of war reinforced my thinking about light, darkness, and divided loyalty. As an archaeologist, I have learned to dig for evidence, to rely on well-thought out assumptions, to try to make sense of fragments, innuendos, mutilated inscriptions. A long-time admirer of the German resistance groups that attempted to bring an end to tyranny by eliminating Adolf Hitler, I was familiar with the milieu of courageous men and women whose lives were risked and often lost in the process. Klaus von Stauffenberg, handsome, aristocratic, Catholic, and unlikely killer, was central to the assassination plot on July 20, 1944. History teaches that the valorous attempt failed. Within hours Stauffenberg and his closest collaborators were shot at the light of truck headlights in a Berlin courtyard, and it is estimated that up to 7000 German officers and civilians were purged in the following months.

How could I combine this heroic figure standing in the glare, the darkness of divided loyalties (oath as a German officer vis-a-vis higher principles), and the idea of mixed parentage? Enter LUMEN's protagonist, Martin Bora. Born in Edinburgh of British and German ancestry, heir to recusant Catholics on both sides, he nonetheless bears the first name of Martin Luther, and the last name of Luther's wife, Katharina von Bora. A classically trained cavalry officer with a passion for languages, music, and his new wife, immediately the war puts Bora's public and private morality to the test. Confronted by the severity of Father Malecki, the tough Chicago priest, Bora discovers that in real life choices are seldom clear, or things are what they seem to be. "Right and wrong, honorable and dishonorable -- they're words and they are blurred to me until I sort them out again. No one can do it for me and it frightens me, it frightens me to have to choose. To have to pick one of the opposites when they're so blurred, and walk away with it not knowing if I have done well, if the choice was wise, when I don't even see the rims of wisdom anymore. Bora's anxiety applies to all of us. And, despite its mystery format, LUMEN was written for the innocent who suffered and died, as well as for those on the wrong side who dared to make the right choice. Surely, literary murders are solved, and sleuthing illuminates their motives. The darkness within persists, and it is in that lack of needed light that one's soul is lost, or saved. LUMEN is humbly meant to serve as a reminder especially at this time, when ethnic cleansing again defaces the world.

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