This is a book review. Those of you not interested, those seeking yet one more re-telling of that great play (there is always one, isn’t there?) seek your satisfaction in another place.
We just finished reading The Secret Cardinal, by Tom Grace, and thought it the perfect thing for a whole bunch of people. First of all, it’s a “Tech” book; a thriller in the style of Tom Clancy’s thrillers. It has a lot of military and high tech jargon for you computer fans. It has a lot of what I would call John Wayne shoot-’em-ups. It also has the Chi-Coms and the Mafia bonded in misery to inflict harm on everyone, everywhere.
That latter is a moral judgment on my part. But, who better to bond in misery?
Most of the action takes place in Rome, inside Vatican City, and in various places inside China. A team of highly trained warriors and Our Hero, Nolan Kilkenny, a tall, handsome, red-haired, Irish-Catholic…can you tell why I like the book?…infiltrate themselves into China to rescue an imprisoned bishop of the underground Catholic Church from Chifeng prison, a place where he has languished in solitary confinement for decades. Of course they face the stock challenges; sadistic, psychopathic, murdering Chinese secret police, Machiavellian mafia plotters and skullduggers, betrayal and the odd technical failure.
But, they also meet courage, purity and faith; wisdom, kindness and grace. That’s what made this, for me, such an unusually satisfying book to read. And, of course the book has all of the stock characters, the pretty girl, the tough old “gunny”, the knowing old Man (in the form of the Cardinal Camerlengo), the brave and self-sacrificing soldiers and the pure and simple peasants.
Everything is put in motion by a John Paul II clone whose dying wish is for the bishop’s freedom and return to Rome. It only adds body to the soup that the rescue attempt unfolds during a conclave and the search for a traitor inside the Vatican.
How that unfolds, how the whole story unfolds, is worth a few night’s reading, or one long afternoon during the next few months when the TV screen is, praise God!, free of the roar of the crowd and Budweiser ads.
There’s several graphically related scenes of violence you may wish hadn’t been there. I found them and the detailed references to the types and qualities of such things as wines…the atmospherics, if you will…a bit over done.
I’ll give it three Soup Spoons. Since I do a bit of cooking for a living, that’s my rating system. So, three spoons. It holds together well, and nourishes both body and soul. What Mr. Grace has his humble bishop say about forgiveness is worth the price of admission.