Monday, July 16, 2007

"The Abelard Sanction" by David Morrell

In 1984 David Morrell published a thriller / espionage novel titled The Brotherhood of the Rose. It featured two foster brothers who had been mentored into the spy business by a man who they thought of as their father. I don’t want to say too much about Brotherhood, because if you haven’t read it I don’t want to spoil the story, but it is a terrific action novel filled with clever plotting, betrayal, and intrigue. Mr. Morrell then wrote two closely related novels: The Fraternity of the Stone and The League of Night and Fog.

The Brotherhood of the Rose and The League of Night and Fog featured CIA specialist and hit man Saul Grisman and his wife Erika Bernstein, a Mossad agent. The novels—particularly Brotherhood—are based on the idea of Abelard safe houses: defined locations where spies can go to get protection. No violence is allowed, and any operative who violates the sanctity of an Abelard safe house will be hunted by every intelligence agency in the world and killed.

The League of Night and Fog was the final novel in the trilogy, but it was left open for a sequel that never came. David Morrell’s son died about the same time and Mr. Morrell lost interest in the series and never came back to it. In an interview I once read—I forget where—he said, to paraphrase: these books were about a son searching for his father, and when I lost my son, I was a father searching for a son. Which brings me to the point: I recently read David Morrell’s short story “The Abelard Sanction”—the first story to feature Saul and Erika since League was published in 1987, and it was everything I liked about these books. It was fast, action-packed and very literate.

“The Abelard Sanction” opens with Saul Grisman driving through a dark and rainy New Mexico night. His destination is the Monastery of the Sun and the Moon, an Abelard safe house. The Monk’s are not happy to have him, but the sanction demands they give him shelter. To give more of the plot would give the story away, but rest assured “The Abelard Sanction” is just as sure-footed and fun as any of the novels. It turns the emphasis of the series away from a son looking for his father, to a father (and mother) looking for a son. It is a short read—17 pages—that reintroduced me to these characters and the world they occupy. It is a great addition to the trilogy, and made me wish again for that sequel that never came.

“The Abelard Sanction” was published in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson, in 2005. It can also be found in The Deadly Bride and 21 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg.

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