David Liss, The Day of Atonement
Ten years previously a New Christian boy had escaped Lisbon and the Inquisition that claimed the lives of his parents. New Christian was the term for Jews forced to convert to Catholicism. New Christians, at least those with enough wealth to be coveted by the Church, were often imprisoned, tortured and sometimes killed.
Now Sebastian Foxx, posing as an English businessman, returns to Lisbon to get his revenge. He plans to kill the priest responsible for his parents' deaths, to settle some other old scores and to right a few wrongs. He also hopes the girl he has never stopped loving loves him, too, and will be willing to run away with him. No sooner does he return than surprises begin occurring. Friends turn out to be enemies, and enemies become unlikely allies.
The biggest surprise, however, is that earthquake, which changes everything, coming as it does at the very moment he is about to kill the evil priest. Is the quake a sign of God's judgment against the Catholic Church or against the entire city of Lisbon for tolerating and cooperating with the Inquisition for so long? Is God using it to remind Sebastian Foxx that revenge and atonement are not really the same thing? Or is it something that just happens at the same time and in the same place many other things are happening?
With earthquakes, as with rainbows and also as with novels, we are each free to interpret them as we wish. The Day of Atonement is a fine historical thriller, but it also gives its readers some interesting questions to ponder.