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Lumen (Martin Bora Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Ben Pastor
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"Pastor's plot is well crafted, her prose sharp. . . . A disturbing mix of detection and reflection."—Publishers Weekly

"A mystery, it rivets the reader until the end and beyond, with its twist of historical realities. A historical piece, it faithfully reproduces the grim canvas of war. A character study, it captures the thoughts and actions of real people, not stereotypes."—The Free Lance-Star

Part wartime political intrigue, detective story, psychological thriller, and religious mystery, Ben Pastor's debut follows a German army captain and a Chicago priest as they investigate the death of a nun in Nazi-occupied Poland.

In October 1939 Captain Martin Bora discovers the abbess, Mother Kazimierza, shot dead in her convent garden. Her alleged power to see the future has brought her a devoted following; her work and motto, "Lumen Christi Adiuva Nos" ("Light of Christ, help us"), appear also to have brought some enemies.

Father Malecki has come to Cracow, at the pope's bidding, to investigate Mother Kazimierza's powers. The Vatican orders him to stay and assist Bora in the inquiry into her killing. Stunned by the violence of the occupation and the ideology of his colleagues, Bora's sense of Prussian duty is tested to the breaking point. The interference of seductive actress Ewa Kowalska does not help matters.

Ben Pastor, born in Italy, has lived for thirty years in the United States, working as a university professor in Vermont. She is the author of other novels, including The Water Thief and The Fire Walker (St. Martin's Press).



Books In This Series (4 Books)
Complete Series

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    Review

    "Lumen is a work of promise and fulfillment. A mystery, it rivets the reader until the end and beyond, with its twist of historical realities. A historical piece, it faithfully reproduces the grim canvas of war. A character study, it captures the thoughts and actions of real people, not stereotypes.A"The Fredericksburg Free Lance Star One of Pastor's many startling accomplishments here is to render this man, Bora, as simultaneously cutthroat in pursuit of Hitler's expansionist aims and consistently humane in his choices and concrete leanings within the situation that presents itself. Lumen succeeds on all levels a magnificent achievement.A" --Christopher Noel, author of Spoils and In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing: A Geography of Grief

    About the Author

    Ben Pastor, born in Italy, has lived for thirty years in the United States, working as a university professor in Vermont. She is the author of other novels including The Water Thief and The Fire Walker (set in Roman times and published to high acclaim in the US by St. Martin's Press), and is considered one of the most talented writers in the field of historical fiction. In 2008 she won the prestigious Premio Zaragoza for best historical fiction. She writes in English

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    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars That rare thing: an intelligent thriller 21 Feb. 2011
    Format:Paperback
    "Lumen" is a hybrid - part detective story, part wartime thriller, part novel of Catholicism (as in the work of Graham Greene).
    Set in Cracow, Poland, in the weeks immediately following the Nazi invasion of 1939, this is a superbly-written, very dense and thoughtful novel disguised as a detective story about the murder of the Mother Superior of a Cracow nunnery (with mystical powers and a bearer of stigmata) and the suspicious death of a very sexually active German officer. Investigations into both these deaths are conducted by Wehrmacht Captain Martin Bora, a German aristocrat (and lapsed Catholic) and a decent soul who gradually realises that the cause he is fighting for is an evil one. In fact some of the most memorable scenes in the novel are when Bora stumbles on the random murders of Polish civilians committed by the SS and the casual discussion by the Nazi occupiers as to whether the Cracow Ghetto will be big enough for their plans; both awful premonitions of the Holocaust to come.
    Populated by real,believable characters with all their flaws, this is a satisfying mystery for the detective story fan, but also much more. It is not only a novel of the highest quality, but one of those rare things these days: an intelligent thriller.
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    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Lumen 6 May 2011
    By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
    Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
    Set just after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, this is a well written, intelligent thriller. Captain Martin Bora is a young officer who wants to make his mark, while being uncomfortable about many of the things he witnesses and also takes part in. The author makes us both aware of Bora's complicity and yet also his humanity. "His eyes burned and ached with smoke, and he wouldn't wipe them for fear of appearing moved, because he wasn't," as one passage puts it so well. His troubled encounter with a previous piano teacher and his complaints about shootings leads to his superior office, Colonel Schenck, stating, "We're all in it. If it's guilt, we're all guilty".

    When Bora first arrives in Poland, he is billeted with Retz, who is out to enjoy life and relishes the advantages of uniform. He is also working with Colonel Hofer, who has been visiting an Abess, Mother Kazimierza, claimed to be a saint. This leads to Bora visiting the convent with Hofer, where he comes into contact with Father Malecki, a priest and American citizen, who has been given the task by the Church of investigating the unofficial cult surrounding the Abess. When Mother Kazimierza is shot, Father Malecki unwillingly has to help Bora investigate. Was she a saint? Was she involved in the underground or working with the Germans?

    Everything about this book works well, drawing you in and demanding to be picked up and read. Bora is a very human character and you feel both for him and Father Malecki and the difficult positions both find themselves in. Colonel Schenck, with his obsession about reproduction, and Retz and his complete selfishness, bring depth to the book. Everyone has something to hide and even Bora and Malecki cannot be open with each other, even if investigating together.
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    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars 'The light in us can be darkness' 8 Mar. 2011
    By J.K. Currie VINE VOICE
    Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
    Congratulations to the publisher for reissuing this fine novel and making it available to a new readership. When I read the first Martin Bora novel some years ago, I was really impressed and looked forward to more of the series. The series is available in Italian, French, German, Dutch, Polish and other languages but up to now not in English, the language the books were originally written in! In Lumen Pastor has created a wonderful evocation of a time and a place, Krakow and its hinterland shortly after the German occupation, and before the Germans are fully settled in. The edginess and brutality on the streets and in the countryside provide a counterpoint to the claustrophobic world of the convent where the murder of the abbess takes place. The investigator, Captain Martin Bora of the Wehrmacht, like all the characters in the book, is deftly and convincingly drawn, a soldier with duty, obedience and the army in his blood, a cultured man who denies his aristocratic background, a lapsed Catholic nevertheless affected by decency and conscience, a husband who has made a bad marriage. Part of what is fascinating about this novel is how the reader can observe Bora's growing disillusion and disengagement with the Nazi authorities he serves. Another noteworthy aspect is how Pastor draws those Nazis. They are by no means caricatures and it is thought-provoking to consider their own mindsets and justification of behaviour. I suppose what is at the heart of this novel is the question of the value of focusing on an individual murder when mass murder is taking place all around. Read it. If you want to be made to think, you will not be disappointed.

    I fervently hope that more of the Bora novels will now become available in English. Otherwise, I will just have to learn Italian!
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Plodding Psychological Whodunit 8 Mar. 2012
    By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER
    Format:Paperback
    Set in the months following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, this first book in the Martin Bora series follows a Captain in the Intelligence arm of the German army who is tasked with solving the murder of a famous Polish nun in Cracow (aka Krakow). He's given a sidekick or sorts, in the form of a visiting Catholic priest from Chicago, who has been sent by the Vatican to write a report about the nun as a possible candidate for sainthood. Meanwhile, he must also deal with the odious womanizing officer he is roommates with, and the troubling increase in civilian killings he learns of. Captain Bora is a thoughtful, university educated, sober soldier, whose notions of honor and law conflict with the wartime reality and his own desires. The result is a mystery that spends a good deal more time on his moral struggles than your typical whodunit.

    The book does a very good job of placing the reader in the early moments of World War II, as seen through the eyes of a willing soldier who isn't yet aware of the nature of the beast he's a part of. Some of the book's best moments are when Bora comes into contact and conflict with the SS, who are clearly engaged in some completely different and separate agenda from his own straightforward military one. There are other nice details, such as references to Bora's previous service in Spain during the Civil War, and a tense meeting with a Soviet unit (recall that at the time, Germany and the USSR split Poland between them). Unfortunately, the period detail isn't enough to sustain the somewhat plodding pace of the story, which wheezes slowly through Bora's investigation of the nun's killing and a subplot involving several Polish actresses involved with his roommate.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like it; after all
    I really wanted to like it; after all, I enjoy WW2 and the Bernie Gunther novels. But I really didn't find it gripping. The main character isn't rteally that interesting. Read more
    Published 18 days ago by Peter
    5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful
    Anything based on a German viewpoint of WW2 is always going to be hard to appear pragmatic. This does it like Bernie Gunther a true detective novel
    Published 21 days ago by William Whawell
    5.0 out of 5 stars Watch out Philip Kerr!
    Lt Col Bora , wow
    Published 1 month ago by Edaward Bull
    4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and Interesting historically
    This is the first book I have read by this author, and I was attracted to it by it being set in the period of the early war partition of Poland by Germany and Russia. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by MR A C LINEKER
    3.0 out of 5 stars some nice writing, a couple of (realistically) shapeless murder...
    An unusual mix of broadly unsympathetic characters, some nice writing, a couple of (realistically) shapeless murder mysteries, and general digressions on war crimes and power... Read more
    Published 1 month ago by Ged Dixon
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    very pleased
    Published 2 months ago by M J STEPHENS
    1.0 out of 5 stars Dull'drawn-out, much ado about not very much.
    Dull'drawn-out,much ado about not very much.
    Published 2 months ago by richardcunningham
    5.0 out of 5 stars A high quality novel about crimes in Nazi-occupied Poland
    I am an admirer of books by Philip Kerr, Alan Furst and other writers who set detective or intelligence service novels in the complex territory of Nazi Germany. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Thomas Cunliffe
    4.0 out of 5 stars Lumen
    An Interesting book. The book reveals the author's deep knowledge of the period and of the German Army. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Ludder
    3.0 out of 5 stars A good story of a young man finding his way within ...
    A good story of a young man finding his way within the harsh reality of war. I will try the next in the series, I only hope he remains that decent man that started his military... Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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