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Book Review -- "Brothers Keepers'

The 1975 Donald Westlake novel, which Hard Case Crime recently republished, has a unique premise. It involves an order of monks on Park Avenue who are faced with the possibility of losing their beloved monastery on Park Avenue in New York City.

A charismatic developer who bears a suspicious resemblance to Donald Trump is making offers to purchase several parcels in the neighborhood contingent on all the properties being purchased -- the wealthy family that owns the property housing the monastery uses criminal means to ensure uncontested ownership of the relevant parcel. The monks, who come from a

variety of backgrounds, prepare to protect their right to remain.

The main character is the shlubby but kind Brother Benedict, who has a talent for making boring confessions. His confessions get more interesting by the end of the book.

The late Westlake writes in a brisk and engaging manner. Even the mundane details become surprisingly interesting. For example, the background involving the monastery is fascinating (the order is devoted to St. Crispin, the patron saint of cobblers and, by extension, travel -- the book focuses on put-upon Brother Benedict travelling quite a bit).

The moral ambiguity popular during the book's era figures into the story. The nominal villains emerge as understandable while the protagonist wrestles with his conscience quite a bit in the second half of the story.

This is not the type of book one would expect from its publisher or writer. But patient readers seeking something different will enjoy it.

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