Rupert Broxbourne, a young English earl turned Anglican priest, is sent to Rome as the Archbishop of Canterbury's personal representative to the Pope. The long-term aim of the mission is to effect some rapprochement between the schismatic churches, but the fledgling cleric soon finds himself enveloped by more immediate, headier atmospheres: he boards with a family of Roman nobles, one of whom is Cardinal Arcadio Monsignani, an expert in Vatican finances. The Cardinal's sister's palazzo is sumptuous; his grand-niece, Serefina, a beauty Rupert falls instantly for; a brilliant yet unstable nephew, Ercole, is openly contemptuous of the dolce vita of his class. And, when Rupert and the Cardinal, working together on the Rome-Canterbury discussions, are kidnapped (while riding in a car together) by a Red-Brigade-like terrorist band, Ercole turns out to be one of the plotters. The terrorists' demands at first include money from the Church's vast holdings and then--not a little implausibly--the very Anglican-Roman Catholic reintegration that Rupert has only dared dream of as being long in the future. Bad things happen in captivity down in the catacombs under Rome--both for Rupert and the Cardinal, and, unfortunately, for the novel. Blasphemies, torture, incestuous melodrama, a conversion (Rupert's--to the Mother Church), death--a lot of pastafazoole, to tell the truth. But the church politics, the besieged privileges of Roman upper class, the anarchy of the brigatisti: all these are sketched in clearly enough. So: strong backgrounds, melodramatically overwrought plotting.