Picks and Pans Review: The Color of Blood

updated 10/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Brian Moore

Life behind the Iron Curtain has never been portrayed more imaginatively or more harrowingly than it is in this novel by the author of The Emperor of Ice Cream, Black Robe and more than a dozen other well-crafted novels. The setting is an unnamed country, much like Poland, with a large Catholic population and a labor union that also holds some small power. The hero is Cardinal Stephan Bem, who survives an assassination attempt only to be kidnapped. At first he assumes that his kidnappers are security police, but then he hears of an inflammatory speech that one of his bishops plans to give at a martyrs' day celebration, and he fears a plot in his own church. The cardinal escapes from his captors, and gradually this man, who for years has had servants to do everything for him, becomes a cunning refugee. Moore depicts the dark side of life in an authoritarian land with convincing asides. Of one state official the cardinal thinks "he bathes daily in a running tap of words inspired by fear and greed, in secret reports of unwary talk, in denunciations inspired by hatred, words spoken after torture. It is the State's business to know these things. The Church has no comparable intelligence." In his prayers to God he also confesses the lessons he learns: "I have not seen how many-sided is this world in which You have placed me in a position of trust." Moore tells this complex, dramatic story of a highly political religious—a man who dares make a most dangerous choice—as if it were a breathless suspense yarn. The subject matter is of substance, and ideas of grave import are illuminated in ways that prove there is a serious and brilliant novelist at work here. (Dutton, $16.95)

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