The Writing of Vienna: The Agony in the Garden

The Agony in the Garden,  Eglise St-Jean-du- Béguinage, Brussels.  Photograph by Kathryn Kirby.

The Agony in the Garden, Eglise St-Jean-du- Béguinage, Brussels. Photograph by Kathryn Kirby.

The Agony in the Garden is an ode to human weakness. Replace the apostles with friends and you have a modern-day parable for what happens when moving time comes around. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

In the opening chapters of my mystery novel, Vienna is character whose limits are defined by the unquestioned conviction of her frailty. Spurned after a one-night stand (yet another test she has failed), her only response is tears. Every step she takes into the world seems to be off a cliff.

Wandering through her misery, Vienna finds herself at the Eglise St-Jean-du-Béguinage, in Brussels. Looking upon a centuries-old frieze of the Agony of the Garden, she reflects upon her own weakness. Depression tells her she’s hopeless, but the spur-of-the-moment verdict hides a deeper truth. Vienna does not retreat back to her sunless apartment. She turns and faces the day, a simple act of courage she doesn’t even acknowledge.

Within minutes, Vienna’s choice leads her to the heart of a 19th century tangle of fortune and blackmail.   Her self-confidence in tatters, she has lottery odds of solving the mystery. Worse, the riddle forces her to work with Justine Am, a know-it-all American loudmouth who has everything anyone could ever want. And who, despite having no rational claim to misery, seems to have a more than passing acquaintance with it.

Can’t be. Justine has everything. How could she need help from anyone? Especially anyone as addicted to failure as Vienna?

It’s another mystery Vienna must solve.

Vienna walked to one of the friezes that flanked the doors of the church, if only for the sake of appearing to be doing something. Other than crying.

Christ waited there, beseeching weathered apostles. The Agony in the Garden. There were words that went with the scene, written in italic red letters: Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.

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