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Thomas Keneally pulls no punches in this powerful novel about the Catholic Church’s attempts to cover up cases of child abuse, and a priest who decides to help its innocent victims’ fight to be heard.

Expelled from the archdiocese of Sydney as a young priest for his outspoken views on the Vietnam War, Father Frank Docherty returns to Australia in 1996 to speak at a conference on paedophilia within the Catholic Church. He had hoped to spend time with his mother and old friends. Instead, he finds himself caught up in the cases of two people who claim to have been sexually abused by an eminent Sydney cleric – one the son of Docherty’s former parishioner, the other a former nun. And the cleric in question is brother to the woman Docherty fell in love with many years before. If the accusations are true, the consequences for many will be devastating, but Docherty has to follow his conscience.

In this riveting, profoundly thoughtful novel, Thomas Keneally draws on his own experience as an ex-seminarian to bring alive matters of faith, celibacy, perversion and marriage. Portraying the Catholic Church at a pivotal moment, he shows that its prevarications and cover-ups wreaked terrible damage not only on innocents but on itself, with toxic repercussions to this day.


The force and resonance of the issue in question - together with Keneally's wise and thoughtful treatment of it - make for another hugely satisfying read from one of the world's great writers.
James Walton, Spectator
Keneally's fiction has returned again and again to the themes of thwarted justice and human opportunism. Crimes of the Father is the work of a richly experienced and compassionate writer. It has an honest understanding of a deeply wounded culture.
Sydney Morning Herald
Nuanced and relevant . . . an excellent example of fiction's capacity to pull apart and explore polarising contemporary problems.
BMA Magazine, Canberra
It turns Catholicism from a matter of interest to insiders and the curious to a febrile topic for the general public . . . Apart from the fictional pleasures of the chase, the novel provides a first-rate summary of the thinking and manoeuvres of all parties caught up in the crisis.
Pulsing with rage at ecclesiastical complacency, it's a deeply discomfiting (but never prurient) quest for redress, narrated with clarity and urgency.
Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail
A provocative and powerful study of abusers and the abused. It captures the honourable priests determined to expose the outrage and the church hierarchy equally determined to discredit them. Most poignantly, it depicts ordinary Catholics caught in the crossfire . . . The writing is most powerful when it conveys the raw pain of the victims and the twisted psyches of their abusers . . . Above all, Keneally exposes the cynical casuistry of a church determined to fight critics down to "its last lawyer", an institution that puts its survival above its soul.
Michael Arditti, Guardian
A convincing argument for the power of fiction to get under the skin of a great contemporary controversy.
James Marriott, The Times
A compelling novel . . . One of the strengths of the novel is Keneally's depiction of the abuser. A chilling portrait is drawn of a man who despises his own actions . . . but who nevertheless seems incapable of stopping. The scenes between him and Docherty, who has uncovered the truth, are compulsive . . . Keneally is one of the great chroniclers of his country's history . . . Here he recognises the injustices done to his fellow countrymen and women by an uncaring establishment . . . to the growing body of work devoted to this most dispiriting of subject, Crimes of the Father is a welcome addition, not least for the dignity that Keneally lends to the good priest's voice as well as to those of the victims of abuse.
John Boyne, Irish Times
Crimes of the Father has something of the feel of John Grisham's courtroom thrillers . . . It is not an easy read, but nor should it be . . . it is a worthwhile attempt to explore how a devoted priest with a clear understanding of humanity can if not atone for, then at least fully address, the crimes of others.
Matt Thorne, Catholic Herald
The divine alchemy of Thomas Keneally is to take something real and make it truer still . . . Docherty is a powerful creation . . . Keneally explores the human condition almost forensically, though with an uplifting charity . . . he is extraordinarily perceptive on the pain of both the victims and those in the Church who have watched these scandals unfold with horror . . . the novel points to the pain of those who trusted and who were abused, those who gave faith and were rewarded in the coin of unspeakable criminality. It also offers the merest glint of optimism.
Hugh MacDonald, The Herald
Keneally is a superb writer who tackles a complex subject calmly but incisively, creating a compelling read.
Characteristically brave and unflinching . . .Keneally's theme is sadly familiar, but in the hands of a world-renowned writer - still, on this evidence, at the height of his powers, and with a long record of shining a light on human frailty and injustice - Crimes of the Father goes way beyond the familiar. It questions what makes a good priest and, therefore, what makes a bad one. And that, Keneally concludes, isn't only to do with individual make-up, circumstances or choices, but also down to institutional Catholicism and "emotional dwarfism" .
Peter Stanford, Observer