Sunday, December 27, 2015


Even though it was published by Mysterious Press (a Warner Books imprint), BROTHERS KEEPERS by Donald E. Westlake doesn't qualify as a mystery in my book. Oh sure, a little bit of  deductive reasoning takes place and crimes (electronic eavesdropping, theft and arson) are committed, but basically this is a comic romp of a novel involving a New York City monastery and the monks who live there as they attempt to save their home from being sold and demolished to make room for a major new development.

Brother Benedict of the Crispinite Order is the narrator of this breezy tale. The order is devoted to thoughts of God and travel. The monks aren't necessarily opposed to travel but they don't engage in it to any degree as they are a fairly self-sufficient little group. But when a big developer threatens to buy the property and demolish it, Brother Benedict is forced to venture outside of the monastery in an attempt to save his home.

His travels take him first to the Long Island home of the developer where he comes under the spell of the developer's lovely daughter, Elaine. Elaine indicates a willingness to help Brother Benedict save the monastery but before he can pursue that avenue, the monks discover that their original copy of the lease has been stolen. When they attempt to reproduce the lease (using an illuminated manuscript), that document is put to the torch by the developer's son posing as a monk. Brother Benedict is forced to fly to Puerto Rico to confront Elaine and ask for her help. Of course, he falls for her and must make a very difficult decision: should he abandon his brothers and the monastery for the woman he loves or renounce Elaine and return to where he is safe and secure and stay with his brothers no matter what?

The third act introduction of a travel agent who wants to join the order puts a new twist on things and the climax finds all of the brothers boarding a bus to the developer's home on New Year's Eve for a final showdown.

BROTHERS KEEPERS was first published in 1975. It was reprinted under the Mysterious Press imprint in 1993. These brothers are more Marx than Crispinite and Westlake keeps things moving at a good clip. Mystery? No. Crime novel? Nope. Fun? You bet. Recommended.

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