SAMARITAN by Philippe Van Rjndt


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After a powerful, promising opening, this international future-thriller becomes loose, chaotic, and farfetched, if often lively--as Van Rjndt attempts to combine Vatican politics (retreading the footsteps of Shoes of the Fisherman) with medico-melodrama and horrific secret doings in Moscow. It's the late 1980s, Soviet troops are in Poland, and the KGB is out to kill fugitive Cardinal Stanislawski--not only because he's a freedom-fighter but because he knows the Kremlin's Big Secret. Meanwhile, USSR premier Komarov is in mortal danger from a brain aneurysm--and the only M.D. who can save him is America's Michael Turner. So Turner reluctantly flies to Moscow, where he's promptly kidnapped by Cardinal S.'s pals: the ailing Cardinal (who's hiding in Moscow!) needs Dr. Turner to save his life, which Turner neatly does. And when Turner then refuses to operate on Komarov unless the Cardinal is allowed to go to Rome, Cardinal S. is on his way to Vatican glory. . . while Turner suffers USSR vengeance: the KGB murder of his wife. But what about that Kremlin secret, you ask? Well, the hardliners are planning to take over after Komarov's demise (which they hasten) and begin ""an extermination that would make Hitler's camps look amateurish. . . ."" So Cardinal S.--now Pope Innocent XIV--is trying, with Israeli agent Anna, to get proof of this evil plan. But, while assorted spies play hot-potato with evidence of the coming Holocaust II, there's another secret about to surface: the secret of the Pope's real identity! (As a concentration-camp child, his tattooed serial number was altered.) And since morose Dr. Turner, now the Pope's physician, possesses the documentation of this secret, his son is taken hostage by the KGB. . . while the Pope goes public, the Kremlin bad guys are exposed, and the Berlin Wall crumbles. Enough plot, then, for three good thrillers; too much, however, for Van Rjndt to stage-manage effectively--especially since neither Turner nor the Pope is a fully-developed or plausibly motivated hero. Still, for those who like hectic, all-over-the-map melodrama and don't mind cross-genre padding (O-R details, familiar Vatican-election rituals), this is hard-working, decently written folderol--with, remarkably, virtually no romance or sex in over 400 pages.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Dial