Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Secret Cardinal by Tom Grace

Who's in the mood for a Tom Clancy-esque spy thriller with a Catholic plot line??!!

What's that you say?? Definitely not the crazy girl who writes this blog and reads books only written by women who lived two centuries ago? Or as my husband calls them "books about dresses".

Its called expanding my horizons people. I'm trying new things. Branching out. Reading contemporary thrillers. I'm growing.

I can't remember just where I saw a slight reference to The Secret Cardinal by Tom Grace, but I'm pretty sure it was a Catholic blog somewhere and before you knew it I had placed a hold on it from the library and was actually reading something written within the last 5 years! And for the most part I was more than pleasantly surprised. 

The book is quickly paced, has a clear line of action, with good simple prose that doesn't try too hard to be more than a thriller, but doesn't insult your knowledge of grammar either. The plot is based on the Vatican deploying a secret team of CIA-type operatives to China in order to break a bishop out of prison. This takes place while a papal election is happening, and in light of the previous pope making the imprisoned bishop a secret cardinal. The depiction of the Church is done expertly, and was obviously written by a Catholic because there are no glaring errors in basic Church practices and presents the Church in a positive light. The character of the Chinese cardinal is beautifully developed, and Grace's hero of his previous novels, Nolan Kilkenny, comes off as a likeable hero whose faith is portrayed fairly realistically.

I personally thought what better villain for spy novel than atheistic China. Grace gives a vivid description of life under a regime that wants to obliterate the outside influence of the Roman Catholic Church, and the lengths its government will go in stopping those who fight for religious freedom. The Vatican having the capability of launching such a covert operation was a little far fetched, but how awesome would it be if the Vatican could do such things? I've gotta say its nice to read a novel that successfully employs the Church into a novel of suspense and action without treating the Church with disrespect and complete disdain.

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