Father I Have Sinned is the gritty tale of an American teacher, Ignatius Fylchworthy, who lives in Thailand and defies great odds to bring down an international child trafficking ring that is being run out of the Catholic school where he teaches. Not only does Fylchworthy destroy the trafficking ring, but he attacks the practices of the Vatican believing that the insisted celibacy contributes to the incidences of child abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. Amidst the intrigue revolving around the child trafficking, there is the strange case of the statue of Mother Mary that sheds bloody tears.
In the course of his investigation, Fylchworthy finds out that the school’s Director of Studies, Tyler Keyhorn, is missing. As Fylchworthy unearths one clue after another, he discovers that Tyler is hiding with one of his students, Bik, who has escaped from the child trafficking syndicate. Both Tyler and Bik are marked by high level officials to be shot on sight so neither of them can publicly identify the pedophiles and help dismantle the syndicate. Fylchworthy, together with the assistance of ex-cop Bill Yolkaby, whose brother happens to be a key player in the syndicate, set about to gather information that will implicate all the major players and save the children who are lined up to be the next “recruits.”
Father, I Have Sinned effectively shows the contrasting aspects of Thailand, from the “delightful environment,” to the “raucous bars,” and “world’s most gorgeous, smiling, and willing women.” Parmelee skillfully presents cultural aspects of Thailand, such as the relationship between Thai people and foreigners and especially the interaction of Thai women, both with men and one another. Probably the most disturbing descriptions center around Thailand’s poverty, and its most vulnerable citizens who are misused by foreigners and the very people in power to protect them.
The mystery surrounding the Madonna’s bloody tears adds to the intrigue and lends a sense of mysticism, malevolence, and foreboding to an already suspenseful story.
Parmelee’s writing is crisp, evocative, and fast paced. The plot and compelling conclusion successfully achieve Parmelee’s primary goal for the book; namely, to draw attention to pedophiles and the children they abuse. A fascinating, sometimes uplifting, sometimes harrowing read, Father, I Have Sinned is thoroughly thought provoking.