Murder at the Altar

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Murder at the Altar is a historical novel written by Armenian-American journalist Terry Phillips, and originally published as a paperback in 2008 by Hye Books. An e-book version appeared in 2011.

The story is based on the assassination of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian. On Christmas Eve morning in 1933, the spiritual leader of Armenians in America was stabbed to death as he began Sunday services in a New York City church. His infamous murder was witnessed by hundreds of parishioners.

The next day, news of this crime was splashed on the front page of every major daily in Manhattan. And no wonder. Not since the assassination of Thomas Becket had such a high religious figure been slain in a house of worship. This gruesome homicide shattered the Armenian community and confounded the cops. Was it a terrorist attack to silence a political adversary, a KGB plot to discredit anti-communists in America, or simply a tragic turn in an ancient, bitter dispute?

Murder at the Altar is told through the eyes of a fictitious (and some would say, autobiographical) reporter named Tom Peterson. It might more accurately be called dramatized history. The book interweaves past and present accounts of these complex events, alternating between Now and Then chapters which are written in first- and third-person voices respectively. Much of the text is based on interviews with survivors, court transcripts and newly declassified FBI files. There are also actual news clips as well as some previously unpublished photos available to further illustrate the story.

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