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Moore, Brian.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1987. 181pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-525-24539-1.

Reviewed by Barbara J. Graham

Volume 16 Number 2
1988 March

Occasionally a novel of great literary skill that gives the reader satisfaction by appealing both to the emotions and intelligence appears. Such is Brian Moore's latest offering.

Chapter one sets the tone for a political and religious thriller that moves relentlessly to the final solution. Cardinal Stephen Bem, the religious patriarch of an unnamed Communist country, escapes an assassination attempt. Who are the assassins? Is it the Security Policy assigned to follow him? Is it a small group of anarchists? Could it possibly be dissidents from within the Church? The reader vacillates, as dues the cardinal, who finds himself more capable than he knows.

The setting and situations, although reminiscent of Poland, are just different enough to keep the reader wondering, What Moore is able to do is capture the essence of place with minimal but powerful descriptive detail. The reader feels the reality of time and location.

Although character does not always play an important role in a story of action and escape, Moore establishes in the cardinal a compassionate and caring individual who feels strongly that the conservative and traditional role he is playing in the political arena is the right one. His concern for the people and his lack of worldliness had led him to the current situation. Although naive, he is far from simple, and it is the blending of his inner and outer struggles that makes him an interesting person. The cardinal's strength of belief and his willingness and courage to act make him a worthy protagonist for both Church and State.

There is an inevitability to the action that does not diminish the suspense of the story-line-one wants to know how the inevitable will unfold. Moore keeps the reader in suspense until the final page, but on returning to the opening chapter, one finds it all there ready for the taking-the clues, the symbols, the tensions, the themes. The cardinal's red robes worn in memory of the blood Christ spilled for humankind remain a constant, as blood continues to be spilled in reality and metaphor.

The mature teenager may enjoy the suspense of both thought and action; however, this is mild fare in comparison with the sex and violence normally associated with the genre. Students who have been studying world politics should enjoy the fictional re-recreation of events not far from reality. There is much to discuss here. Students of literature will enjoy the brilliance of the opening chapter, which promises much it is able to deliver.

Barbara J. Graham, Board of Education for the City of London, London, Ont.
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