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A courageous and powerful novel about faith, the church, conscience and celibacy.

A timely, courageous and powerful novel about faith, the church, conscience and celibacy.

Tom Keneally, ex-seminarian, pulls no punches as he interrogates the terrible damage done to innocents as the Catholic Church has prevaricated around language and points of law, covering up for its own.

Ex-communicated to Canada due to his radical preaching on the Vietnam War and other human rights causes, Father Frank Docherty is now a psychologist and monk. He returns to Australia to speak on abuse in the Church, and unwittingly is soon listening to stories from two different people – a young man, via his suicide note, and an ex-nun – who both claim to have been sexually abused by an eminent Sydney cardinal. This senior churchman is himself currently empannelled in a commission investigating sex abuse within the Church.

As a man of character and conscience, Father Docherty finds he must confront each party involved in the abuse and cover-up to try to bring the matter to the attention of the Church itself, and to secular authorities.

This riveting, profoundly thoughtful novel is both an exploration of faith as well as an examination of marriage, of conscience and celibacy, and of what has become one of the most controversial institutions, the Catholic Church.


Crimes of the Father, a characteristically brave and unflinching novel by the Booker and Miles Franklin prize-winner, examines how the overwhelming majority of Catholic clerics, who may struggle with their vow of celibacy but still manage to give something positive to the world, are coping in an institution where a tiny minority have abused children, too often while the church turns a blind eye. 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.

Peter Stanford, The Guardian UK

Gobsmackingly, Tom Keneally has taken the whole planet for his fictional province, and again and again seems to be at home wherever he lands. Crimes of the Father has a propellant plot. Will justice be done, and will Docherty be allowed to return to Sydney? What develops is a series of cases and confrontations that create as intelligent and comprehensive an account of ecclesiastical reaction to the abuse crisis as I could imagine. 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.

Gerard Windsor, The Australian

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.

Michael McGirr, The Age

This is an amazing novel written with insight and compassion. Keneally, with consummate skill, has crafted an unputdownable book, which addresses the issues of celibacy, humanity and the law. Through his characters, Father Frank Docherty, Sara, an ex-nun, and families affected by abuse of a current Monsignor who is now in a position to affect the outcome of legal proceedings against the church. Keneally shows the powerlessness of those left outside seeking recognition.

Maryan Heffernan, Manly Daily

For a man who almost became a Catholic priest [Keneally] gives the church both barrels as he interrogates it for the terrible damage it has wrought upon generations of the faithful, of innocent children whose lives have been stolen. This is must reading.

Riverine Herald

In his fiction and non-fiction both, Keneally hands a megaphone to the ignored, marginalised and vulnerable, and seeks to represent those damaged by the society or institutions of their time. Crimes of the Father is no exception; as Father Docherty noses out adult survivors of sexual abuse in Sydney, he is drawn into complex moral territory. A nuanced and relevant book, Crimes of the Father is an excellent example of fiction's capacity to pull apart and explore polarising contemporary problems.

Cara Lennon, BMA magazine, Canberra

A searing and intelligent novel that pits the church against the law - and its own.

Yours, Sydney

A tight plot rife with ethical and emotional dilemmas. Crimes of the Father may be seen as a topical, neatly-constructed crime novel and/or as Keneally's indictment of the Irish Catholic Church to which he is affiliated by birth and upbringing if no longer by personal allegiance. It is also in part a powerful reminiscence of an exciting time of liturgical fervour and lay participation that was by no means confined to Catholicism.

Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

Readable, timely, wise.

Paul Sharrad, Sydney Review of Books

Keneally certainly does not skirt around the horrors of paedophilia, he is a gentle and compassionate writer far more interested in understanding than condemning … Crimes of the Father ... deserves great credit for treating this sensitive issue without an ounce of sensationalism. Thomas Keneally's North Cork forebears would be proud of him.

Irish Independent

Keneally is extraordinarily generous in his story-telling … 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.

Spectator UK

Pulsing with rage at ecclesiastical complacency, it’s a deeply discomfiting (but never prurient) quest for redress, narrated with clarity and urgency.

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 I 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

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    September 18, 2017

    Vintage Australia

    400 pages

    RRP $26.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • Trade Paperback


    October 31, 2016

    Vintage Australia

    400 pages

    RRP $37.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • EBook


    October 31, 2016

    RHA eBooks Adult

    400 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory


Docherty Comes to Australia
1 July 1996

Sarah Fagan was driving a cab. Some might think her cab-driving a pathetic attempt to meet men. In fact, it was a genuine attempt to allow a recovery of her brain, which was depleted, and a revival of her spirit, which had been rendered numb from all that had happened to her.

Driving was an art, but it also allowed intellectual vacuity, plain rituals of conversation. And if Sarah did not want to converse on the issue of why a woman like her was driving a cab, she would say, ‘We’re all filling in for my husband, who has cancer.’ The ‘we’re all’ implied a tough family hanging together in a crisis; that she was not, therefore, in favour of being messed around by passengers. She suspected that a decision about whether she would stay in neutral gear for the rest of her life, or might pull herself out of it, would most probably arise not from conscious thought or frantic self-analysis, but with her brain muted by routine. Listening to and exchanging banalities with her passengers, she hoped she would hear some healing neutral words. She might then learn to live in the same room as the tiger, the flesh-tearing fury.

Continue Reading
Tom Keneally Q&A

The much-loved author discusses the impetus behind writing Crimes of the Father.

Author’s Note: Tom Keneally

Straight from the pages of Crimes of the Father.

Also by Tom Keneally

The Daughters Of Mars
The Unmourned
The Soldier's Curse
Napoleon's Last Island
The Place at Whitton
A Country Too Far: Teacher's Edition
The Great Australian Writers' Collection 2013
Shame and the Captives
A Country Too Far
Bring Larks and Heroes:Text Classics
Three Famines
The People's Train
Searching For Schindler
Three Cheers For The Paraclete
The Widow And Her Hero
The Commonwealth Of Thieves
Roos In Shoes
The Tyrant's Novel
An Angel In Australia
American Scoundrel
Bettany's Book
The Great Shame


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Best Laid Plans
Fool Me Once
The Golden House
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Swing Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Girls
Cold Blood
Fifty Shades Darker
The Trip of a Lifetime
The Light Between Oceans
Ready Player One