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A Whispered Name: Book review

Reviewed by's Anna Gowan

William Brodrick's Father Anselm novels are widely praised for their fine storytelling and prose.

A Whispered Name , the third in the series, sees Father Anselm investigating a desertion trial held during the bloody battle of Passchendaele in World War One. The trial involves one of the founding members of Anselm's priory - Herbert Moore. 

In alternate chapters, Brodrick details the trial and its aftermath from dual perspectives: Herbert sitting on the judgment panel as a young soldier in 1917, and Anselm exploring the allegations brought against Herbert in contemporary England.

In war, life is cheap and Herbert is legally obliged to sentence the soldier to death. Uneasy with his decision, he begins his own investigation to discover the nature of the desertion, with damning consequences.

Widely regarded as one (if not the) most fruitless battle of the Great War, the battle of Passchendaele is certainly a ripe context for fiction. Brodrick has meticulously researched life on the front, and the concluding chapters of A Whispered Name offer a harrowing glimpse of the decisions faced by soldiers during the war.

A Whispered Name is a solidly written book, however Brodrick's slow-build approach to narrative makes the plot lag in parts, particularly the first half of the novel.

This is perhaps due to Anselm's cloudy motivations for investigating the claims against Moore - a chance conversation becomes a catalyst for a major investigation. Perhaps Brodrick is relying on his reader's previous knowledge his character's nature to investigate.

But it's worth hanging in there, as ultimately A Whispered Name is an intriguing novel, asking the reader to consider the selfless nature of war and the ultimate sacrifices that were made for a fellow soldier.

Rating: 7/10

Title: A Whispered Name
Author: William Brodrick
RRP: $24.99
Publisher: Hachette (Little, Brown)
Available: Now