Predictable and uninspired, Higgins' new novel is nonetheless the sort of wellmade, plainly written, decent, and even uplifting suspense story that is always welcome. And--you'll be relieved to hear--it isn't set during World War II, but in a relatively fresh time-and-place frame: Germany, 1963. A few weeks before JFK's much-anticipated visit to West Berlin, the East Germans lure and capture Father Scan Conlin, a renowned figure in the underground that smuggles defectors over the Wall from east to west. Imprisoned in a rural schloss, the priest will be subjected to the up-to-date brainwashing techniques of Harry Van Buren, an embittered U.S. expatriate whose father was a victim of McCarthyism; the idea is to get Father Conlin to proclaim to the world that he's been a CIA tool, thus ruining JFK's West Berlin diplomatic coup. While the brave old priest puts up with sensory deprivation, noise assault, sexual titillation, and torture, a collaborative U.S./West German/ Vatican effort is being made to rescue him--which involves a German agent disguised as a priest and the digging of a tunnel to the schloss through dangerously infective, hideously stenchful cemetery grounds. There's a romance between two of the rescuers, of course (the heroine herself will have to be rescued at the finale), and there's also the slightly saccharine but genuinely warming subplot of the local East German villagers reasserting their religious faith after a priestless, churchless decade. Solid characterization, appealing simplistic themes, workmanlike plottingan amalgam of minor virtues that never quite thrills but also never goes an inch astray.